Once upon a time she was a front-runner to be President Joe Biden’s running mate in his 2020 campaign for the White House.
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Now, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is facing serious accusations in a “crotch-grabbing” incident involving one of her subordinates.
Former campaign staffer James Hallinan alleged that, at the home of state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-N.M., Grisham poured water on his lap and reached for his genitals, according to reports by the Santa Fe New Mexican. Hallinan claimed she was laughing during the incident.
The governor and her team are denying the accusation. Grisham’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett says the claims made by Hallinan are false and without merit.
Although they claim the allegations to be false, Grisham’s political committee reportedly paid $62,500 to settle the claims, according to campaign finance filings and the governor’s re-election campaign spokesman.
Campaign finance records obtained Tuesday show that Grisham’s campaign committee paid the settlement in five monthly installments to a law firm representing James Hallinan.
Lujan Grisham campaign spokesman Jared Leopold confirmed Tuesday the payments were linked to a settlement to resolve “dubious and disputed” claims by Hallinan.
He said the payment was made to avoid the distraction and cost of litigation.
Leopold said in an email that the governor, her campaign organization, and a state-employed adviser “deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims.”
Hallinan has referred recent questions to his attorneys, Kenneth Stalter and Rachel Berlin Benjamin, who say that any differences between Hallinan and the governor have been resolved and that they cannot comment further.
The first payment to Hallinan’s legal counsel dates back to November 2020, when Grisham was still in the running for a possible Cabinet position with the administration of President Joe Biden.
It is unclear whether Hallinan’s harassment accusations ever were independently vetted.
Leopold and Sackett offered no response when asked whether the governor has been the focus of any other accusations of harassment or misconduct or participated in any other financial settlements or nondisclosure agreements. They declined to say whether further payment is still due to Hallinan.
The Associated Press contributed to this article