New Mexico Governor reaches settlement with former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual assault

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has reached a settlement with a former member of her campaign staff James Hallinan who accused Grisham of unwanted sexual advances during her 2018 run for Governor.

Hallinan alleged that Governor Grisham poured water on his crotch and then grabbed it. Hallinan told the Albuquerque journal that the incident occurred when Governor Grisham “took issue” with some of his suggestions. Hallinan has also alleged that Governor Grisham laughed during the full encounter. The incident happened in 2018, but Hallinan did not report it until 2019.  Hallinan stated that he was pressured into not reporting it by Senior Adviser to the Governor Dominic Gabello. Hallinan tweeted the following in 2019 “A governor @GovMLG is not above the law for sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!) I’ll talk more when I return to the country.”

The gubernatorial campaign made 5 payments of $12,500 each month from November 2020 to March 2021 to an Atlanta-based law firm representing James Hallinan. The payments were listed as “legal expenses.” Governor Grisham is currently the chair of the Democrat Governors Association and a former member of congress. Jared Leopold, a campaign spokesman for Lujan Grisham, provided the Albuquerque Journal with a written statement saying the money was being used to resolve “numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.”

Leopold added that the campaign, the governor, and Gabello all “strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims,” including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign. “They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic,” Leopold said. Hallinan’s attorney, Rachel Berlin Benjamin, is currently employed at the Atlanta-based law firm Buckley Beal (which received the payments from the campaign).

She similarly told the newspaper that the two sides had “resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction.” A spokesperson for the Republican Governors Association, Will Reinert, told Axios in an emailed statement that settlement payments “certainly suggest that there must be some truth” to the claims and called on Lujan Grisham to publicly apologize. To add to the intrigue, Governor Grisham signed House Bill 21, this bill is a measure that limits the use of NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) in sexual misconduct cases.





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