Former Gov. Carruthers named to Ethics Commission

Garrey Carruthers

The state Senate’s Republican leader announced Monday he’s selected former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers to serve on the new state Ethics Commission.

Carruthers, a Republican from Las Cruces, was governor from 1987-1991. More recently, he served as president and chancellor of New Mexico State University.

“Gov. Carruthers’ reputation has always stood strong and firm as a person who cared deeply about the state and who treated everyone and everything with respect,” Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said in a news release.

Carruthers served on Gov. Bill Richardson’s Task Force on Ethics Reform in 2006. Carruthers was co-chairman of the committee, which recommended several pieces of legislation — including one that would have created an ethics commission with investigatory responsibilities and subpoena power, as well as an educational component to make sure public officials know basic ethical behavior that’s expected of them in government service.

“It’s been a long time and I’m delighted,” Carruthers said in a phone interview Monday. “I’m interested in setting up the administration of the commission, getting the right personnel and getting the right protocols. If we set it up right from the beginning, it should work for years.”

Carruthers recalled that when he was dean of NMSU’s College of Business, he oversaw a $1.25 million grant from the Daniels Foundation Ethics Initiative for developing a principle-based ethics program over five years.

Voters in 2018 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment creating an ethics commission after more than a decade of campaigning by reformers and a seemingly unending parade of political scandals that landed prominent New Mexico officials behind bars or under indictment.

Early this year the Legislature passed a law to set up a seven-member commission to oversee the state’s laws on campaign finances, lobbying, financial disclosures and conflicts of interest. The body won’t have power over local governments.

Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate get to appoint one member. Carruthers is the last of the legislative appointments.

In April, Senate President Pro-Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, selected longtime good government advocate Frances Williams of Las Cruces to the commission while House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, appointed former Deputy Attorney General Stuart Bluestone.

Bluestone worked with Carruthers on Richardson’s ethics task force. Last month House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, appointed Judy Villanueva, who oversees regulatory compliance at a private medical practice in Carlsbad, to the commission.

Those four members will appoint two more commissioners. The governor appoints the chairman of the commission. So far there are two Republicans and two Democrats on the board. The constitutional amendment that passed says no more than three commissioners can be members of the same party.

A spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Monday that while there is no deadline for choosing the commission chairman, the plan is to have one in place by July 1 — the day the statute goes into effect.