Complaint questions whether Sandoval County commissioner broke the law

BERNALILLO,  N.M. (KRQE) – The head of the Democratic Party in Sandoval County has filed a complaint to see if Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block broke the law when he filed to run for office.

Block, a Republican, was still an active Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force when he filed to become a candidate for the Sandoval County Commission in March 2016. Block had spent over 20 years in the Air Force, including time in Afghanistan.

“I had to file a request through my service secretary, the Secretary of the Air Force that would allow me to run for office,” said Block.

Prior to filing in March, the Department of the Air Force authorized Block in February 2016 to participate in political activity while on active duty. More specifically, to become a candidate for the Sandoval County Commission.

Block said he met the listed county requirements to run for office, which included living in his district and being a resident with a valid license.

“I also offered to give them the letter I received from the Secretary of the Air Force, my approval to run,” said Block. “I talked to the county attorney as well, they didn’t require that.”

Block would officially retire from the Air Force by August 2016. Three months later he would defeat the incumbent Democrat for District Two in Sandoval County.

However, in March 2017, Marg Elliston, head of the Democratic Party for Sandoval County, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office alleging a possible violation by Block of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by government employees.

The Secretary of State’s Office turned over the complaint to the State Attorney General’s Office for review.

“I asked her why [Elliston] did that and she believed that I didn’t follow proper procedure, and I told her you could have asked me that during those eight months during the campaign,” said Block.

The complaint from the Democratic Party does not say if it thinks Block should be booted from office or if there should be another election. It just asks what remedies are available to the citizens of Sandoval County.

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