The Spanish fraternal organization Union Protectíva de Santa Fé is asking the city's Ethics and Campaign Review Board to dismiss a complaint claiming the organization engaged in illicit political activity to try to unseat Mayor Alan Webber in this fall's election.
The complaint, filed last month by Webber's campaign, alleges Union Protectíva violated city code and state law by failing to register as a political committee. The ethics board is expected to discuss the complaint Thursday.
Union Protectíva has been vocal in its opposition to Webber and his decision to remove a statue of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from a downtown park last year. It also has been critical of the city's Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process in newspaper advertisements and social media posts.
In a response filed Thursday with the ethics board, Union Protectíva argued it is not a political committee, saying its "principal purpose" is to preserve Santa Fe's Hispanic heritage.
The group also said its views were protected under the First Amendment.
Its ad about the CHART process "identifies Mayor Webber but does not even faintly suggest that anyone should vote for or against him," the group said in its response to the complaint. "Indeed, it does not even mention the upcoming municipal election. In short, the most reasonable interpretation of the advertisement is that the speaker is unhappy with Mayor Webber. The First Amendment robustly protects that speech."
In an interview, James Hallinan, the organization's spokesman, said: "Just because Union Protectíva is calling out the mayor for his irresponsible, and what we believe to be illegal, behavior with our monuments does not mean he can abuse the system and file a frivolous, knowingly frivolous, complaint just to retaliate."
In an email, Sascha Guinn Anderson, Webber's campaign spokeswoman, said: "Union Protectiva clearly engaged in electioneering and voters deserve to know how attack ads are being funded. Transparency and disclosure are basic tenets of Santa Fe's election code and no one should be above the law."