A jury found former Las Vegas, N.M., Mayor Tonita Gurulé-Girón guilty of two felony counts Thursday in a trial stemming from allegations of bid-rigging and abuse of power while she was in office in the small Northern New Mexico city.
Matt Baca, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said Gurulé-Girón was convicted Thursday of receiving an illegal kickback and violating New Mexico’s Government Conduct Act. Both are fourth-degree felonies. She faces a sentence of up to 18 months on each conviction, or 36 months total, Baca added.
Four counts against Gurulé-Girón were dismissed by 4th Judicial District Judge Abigail Aragon. A sentencing date has not yet been set, Baca said.
Gurulé-Girón, who resigned in January 2020, was accused of pressuring employees to award contracts to her boyfriend’s construction company, in which she also was a business partner. She received kickbacks from the boyfriend, Marvin Salazar, according to the complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
“Prosecuting public corruption is difficult, yet our office will always take appropriate action to ensure the public’s confidence in government is restored,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement.
A message left with Gurulé-Girón’s lawyer, JoHanna Cox, was not immediately returned.
Gurule-Giron’s time as mayor — she was the first woman in the city’s history to hold the office — was marked by controversy almost from the beginning, with the allegations spurring her resignation just before the Las Vegas City Council was set to discuss removing her, not long before her term was set to end. At the time, she said she did not plan to run for reelection.
“Those who know me personally know I am a fighter,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “However, I believe the citizens of Las Vegas deserve to have city government operate without the distractions that undoubtedly will ensue if I remain in office for the last two months of my term.”
Gurule-Giron was well known to many even before becoming mayor, having graduated from West Las Vegas High School and obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico Highlands University. She was elected to the City Council in 2010 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2012.
She took office in March 2016 after winning a recall election by just 23 votes. She faced two recall campaigns early in her term, battling with the city’s police chief and City Council over spending and ethics. By fall in 2017, she faced a special audit over alleged conflicts of interest and purchasing irregularities.