Garcia steps out of bounds after her bar is cited
Posted 8/14/2007 02:56:00 PM
In a state that doesn’t pay its lawmakers, the vast majority have other professions. That can be beneficial because their expertise is useful. Lawyers are better at crafting laws than the rest of us. Teachers have experience in education. Farmers and ranchers know a lot about agriculture.
But legislators must tread carefully when, because of committee assignments or the simple fact that their votes count, they come anywhere close to an issue in which they have a financial interest.
Apparently, Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, the majority whip and a bar owner, doesn’t understand that.
A year ago, the Richardson Administration enacted tougher penalties for serving minors and intoxicated people that Garcia and others criticized as unfair. Instead of trying to meet the new requirements, three
A bar owned by Garcia’s brother-in-law and nephew filed an application in May to sell its liquor license. And at the end of May, Garcia’s own bar,
Several weeks after her bar was cited, Garcia held a meeting in Mesilla, attended by six legislators and at least 50 alcohol-industry representatives. She hauled officials from the departments responsible for administering and enforcing the rules and statutes to the meeting. Some of them had to travel from as far away as
Garcia and others then beat them up (in the figurative sense), accusing them of Gestapo tactics. They complained about unfair regulations and accused investigators of unfairly targeting specific bars and areas. They said many regulations are inconsistent and nonsensical.
Those who showed up to complain may have some valid points. A lot of people believe the new rules are unfair and the regulations and statutes aren’t being enforced evenly. Any time six legislators, some from as far away as
The need for additional deliberation is overshadowed, however, by Garcia’s actions.
The Regulation and Licensing Department is now seeking sanctions against
Perhaps that’s why, on the night of May 25 when she was informed her bar was being cited, Garcia’s sister told the officer, according to the police report, that her sister was a state senator and demanded a business card. That creates the appearance that Garcia’s sister was seeking special treatment or making a threat.
The subsequent calling of the contentious meeting in Mesilla creates the appearance that Sen. Garcia could be trying to intimidate the department that cited her bar and the department seeking administrative sanctions. As the majority whip, she certainly has influence over the budgets and salaries of the very departments and employees pursuing action against her bar.
Garcia needs to back off immediately. There are plenty of other legislators who share her concerns and don’t have her conflict of interest. She needs to let the discussion be about the administration and enforcement of regulations and laws, not her inability to grasp the basic concept of avoiding the appearance of impropriety.
Garcia, who is a member of the legislative Ethics Subcommittee, also needs to make sure her sister never again invokes her public position for personal gain.