RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – Just days before a runoff election for a city council seat, Rio Rancho Police are pressing criminal charges against a candidate, accusing him of filing a false report against his opponent.
Rio Rancho Police filed a criminal complaint against former Rio Rancho City Councilor and former Sandoval County Commissioner David Bency on Thursday, April 7, charging Bency with filing a false police report.
Police say Bency first accused his opponent, Lonnie Clayton, of vandalizing a Bency political campaign sign. After a more than two week investigation, police are now going after Bency with a misdemeanor charge. The situation has Bency defending himself.
“Oh yes absolutely,” said Bency in response to a question about if he disagrees with the charge filed against him.
Meanwhile, Clayton is furious.
“I said this is bogus,” said Clayton. “I’m not happy about this at all; I’m really frustrated.”
Clayton and Bency will face each other Tuesday, April 12, in a runoff election for Rio Rancho City Council’s district six seat. That seat is currently held by Clayton.
According to a criminal complaint, Rio Rancho Police began investigating last month, on March 22. Police say they were first contacted by Bency, who accused Clayton of damaging a Bency campaign sign in the week prior, on March 18.
Bency then told Rio Rancho Police that he had heard the story from a witness, saying that Clayton was kicking a Bency campaign sign outside of the Meadowlark Senior Center.
“I have never done it,” said Clayton, who denied kicking the sign in his interview with News 13.
Clayton also told Rio Rancho Police that he did not kick Bency’s campaign sign, saying he was with his wife on the day of the alleged vandalism.
“I was spending that day taking her to-and-fro different doctor appointments,” said Clayton.
Clayton equates Bency’s allegation to political mudslinging.
“I am completely frustrated that he would stoop to these low levels just to try to win some efficiency with the voters by saying I’m the dirty bad guy,” said Clayton.
According to the complaint, Rio Rancho Police’s investigation turned toward Bency after his witness told a different story than the one Bency provided.
Rio Rancho Police said the witness, Joseph Nieto, told them he “never positively identified the suspect as Alonzo (Lonnie) Clayton” and that the “Mr. Bency was the person who suspect the male was Alonzo Clayton.”
News 13 caught up with Bency at his home on Friday afternoon.
“You’ll have to talk to my attorney, my attorney says that we can only go through him,” said Bency to KRQE News 13’s Special Assignment Reporter Chris McKee.
While Bency told News 13 that he denies the charge against him, Rio Rancho Police say he has refused to talk to them since making the report against Clayton.
“Do you stand by your story? That this was Mr. Clayton who…” asked KRQE News 13’s Special Assignment Reporter Chris McKee.
“I’ll have to go by my attorney’s opinion and you’ll have to talk to him,” said Bency.
Bency’s attorney never returned KRQE News 13’s call for comment on Friday evening. However, KRQE News 13 did hear from a supporter of Bency’s on Friday evening, who believes that Bency is being politically targeted with the police investigation against him, and its timing in proximity to the runoff election.
Both candidates have accused each other and their supporters of circulating negative campaign flyers this election. On Friday, Clayton sent out a mailer about Bency’s accusations. Recently, Bency made a post his campaign website, accusing Clayton’s supporters of circulating “negative” information about him.
Bency will have to go to court on the false report charge, but it’s unclear when that will happen.
The April 1 runoff election between Clayton and Bency is being held next week because none of the four candidates who ran during the initial March 1 election received 50% or more of the vote. According to the Rio Rancho Clerk’s Office, in the March 1 election, Bency received 535 votes, Clayton received 261 votes, candidate Chris Balzano received 231 votes and candidate Chris J. Vanden-Heuvel received 227 votes.