Lawmaker may have illegally wielded influence

Posted at: 10/18/2012 7:27 PM
Updated at: 10/18/2012 10:49 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, 4OYS; Peter St. Cyr, 4OYS

A KOB 4 On Your Side investigation into Representative Ray Begaye of Shiprock has uncovered Begaye using his influence as a legislator to ask judges for favorable treatment in a drunk driving case against his daughter.

In a July 2012 letter on official state legislature letterhead Begaye asks a magistrate judge to release his daughter from jail for a DWI.

In another letter dated back in December of 2009 Begaye appears to try and justify a DWI by writing, "there were technical matters beyond her control that led to her arrest."

The letters also list Begaye's committee appointments including his membership on the powerful Appropriation and Finance Committee. That committee controls the budget for the state judiciary.

The letter appears to be in direct violation of a 1996 advisory opinion issued by a by a state ethics committee and the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act.

According to the law, "a legislator or public officer or employee shall treat the legislator's or public officer's or employee's government position as a public trust. The legislator or public officer or employee shall use the powers and resources of public office only to advance the public interest and not to obtain personal benefits or pursue private interests."

A 4OYS review of Begaye's campaign reports also turned up several questionable expenditures including:

- $500 dollar donation to the campaign of his brother, a tribal council delegate.

- Over $800 in propane expenses

- $200 for an woman listed as an "indigent donor"

- Over $400 for septic services

For over a week, 4OYS has been trying to contact Begaye about the letters and campaign finance irregularities discovered in his campaign reports. But since then Begaye has skipped out on four public meetings and has not returned phone calls or text messages.

Last month, 4OYS exposed Begaye for double billing taxpayers for trips that he received for free. Begaye agreed to refund the conference $1,800 for the double payment but has not returned any money to the state.

Ray Begaye Letter