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Rick Lass on indictments: ‘Is Jerome Block representing his constituency?’
The man who lost to Jerome Block Jr. in November for a seat on the state’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) said Wednesday that the eight indictments of Block handed down today by a grand jury are a “strike” against him, but the PRC chair says Block is doing “a good job.”
“I think it’s another example of another corrupt New Mexico official and how long will Jerome block Jr. get away with this behavior,” said Rick Lass, the Green Party candidate who lost the race despite scandals surrounding Block.
Lass did not learn of the indictments until contacted by the Independent. Asked if he was calling on Block to resign, Lass said, “It’s not about me anymore. That stopped in November. It’s about, is Jerome Block representing his constituency? This is a strike against him.”
Jerome Block Jr. and his father were indicted today by a state grand jury on election-related charges.
Both men were charged with violating the elections code, conspiring to violate the elections code, tampering with evidence and conspiring to tamper with evidence. The charges against the younger Jerome Block also include embezzlement of between $500 and $2,500.
Block Jr. was indicted on eight felony counts. Block Sr., a former member of the PRC, was indicted on four felonies.
Jerome Block Jr. didn’t appear to be considering resigning from his $90,000-a-year job representing northern New Mexico on the powerful regulatory board.
“I’m elected, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” he was quoted by the Santa Fe New Mexican as saying before closing his office door to the reporter.
Public Regulation Commission Chairman Sandy Jones said it’s too early to demand Block’s resignation. Jones said Wednesday that Jerome Block Jr. has done a good job in his first few months in office, so Jones isn’t calling on him to resign — at least yet.
“I can tell you, since he’s been here he’s been pretty solid,” Jones said in a phone interview. “What I do know is, up to now, as I’ve worked next to him over here, he comes to work early every morning, he’s done a good job at the Legislature, he’s working hard.”
Jones said he’s “not particularly surprised” that Block was indicted today because he knew there was a grand jury. “Seldom do grand juries convene without issuing indictments,” Jones said, “but by the same token not everyone that gets indicted is convicted.”
“I wouldn’t call on him to resign right now,” Jones said.
Jones said he can speak only to his experience with Block since Block took office in January.
“Now, what happened in the campaign I don’t know. I understand he had an issue with the secretary of state. I thought that had been worked out, but apparently it’s not worked out with the AG,” Jones said.
He added that Block is only one of five members of the commission, so the public “is safe with the decisions we’re making.”
“If I didn’t think that, I would be more concerned,” Jones said.
A grand jury had been meeting since last month, and the indictments were filed late Wednesday morning.
The charges stem from Block Jr.’s publicly funded campaign for office last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Block, who is in his first term on the PRC, paid a band to play at a rally that never took place. Block later had to pay a fine and return $10,000 of the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he received for his campaign after admitting to filing false reports.
He was also fined for making a contribution to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which is an invalid use of the public funds.
During the campaign, Block Jr. was also in hot water for lying to newspaper reporters about his “past brushes with the law and his education,” the New Mexican article states. One of those testifying before the grand jury was Las Vegas Optic managing editor and reporter David Giuliani, who testified about Block Jr.’s lies and later admissions that he was lying.