New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign has paid $62,500 to settle sexual mistreatment claims from a male ex-staffer who said she poured water on his crotch then grabbed it.
Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign made five payments of $12,500 every month from November through March to an Atlanta-based law firm representing James Hallinan.
Hallinan first accused the Democratic governor in late 2019 of pouring a bottle of water on his crotch while laughing and then grabbing his crotch through his clothes in front of other campaign staffers.
The alleged incident took place during a meeting in 2018 when Lujan Grisham was running for governor and Hallinan was working as her campaign spokesman.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (pictured in March) campaign has paid $62,500 to settle sexual mistreatment claims from a male ex-staffer who said she poured water on his crotch then grabbed it
It is not clear when the settlement was agreed upon, with the payout only coming to light as part of a campaign finance report filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office.
The five monthly payments are listed as legal expenses in the report and it is not clear if further payments will be made in upcoming months, according to the Albuquerque Journal which first reported on the deal.
Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the governor, confirmed to the paper that the payments were part of a settlement agreement resolving ‘numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.’
Leopold insisted that Lujan Grisham and her campaign team continue to ‘strenously deny’ Hallinan’s allegations but said a settlement was reached to prevent distraction and litigation costs.
‘[The governor, Senior Adviser Gabello and the campaign organization] strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims, including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign,’ Leopold said.
‘They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic.’
Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign made five payments of $12,500 every month from November through March to an Atlanta-based law firm representing James Hallinan (above)
Hallinan first accused the Democratic governor in a tweet in late 2019 (above)
Rachel Berlin Benjamin, an attorney for Buckley Beal law firm, where the payments were sent and which represents Hallinan told DailyMail.com the two parties ‘have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction.’
‘I am not able to provide any further information,’ she said.
Hallinan first accused the governor of unwanted sexual behavior in late 2019 in a series of cryptic tweets posted on Christmas Day.
‘A governor @GovMLG is not above the law for her sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!) I’ll talk more when I return to the country,’ he tweeted on December 25 2019, around one year after he stopped working for the governor.
His tweet did not offer any details of the allegation and sparked an instant denial from the governor’s office which released a statement calling the accusations ‘bizarre and slanderous’.
Days later, Hallinan revealed details of the alleged incident during a senior staff meeting at Representative Deborah Armstrong’s home in the summer of 2018.
Lujan Grisham meeting President Joe Biden in February in the Oval Office to discuss a COVID-19 relief package
Hallinan claimed Lujan Grisham had taken a bottle of water and poured it onto his crotch before slapping him and grabbing his crotch.
He said he was speaking out more than a year later after being convinced by Dominic Gabello not to quit and not to report the incident to police.
Gabello, who now works as the governor’s senior adviser, was Lujan Grisham’s campaign manager at the time.
Lujan Grisham’s office said the allegations were ‘categorically false’ and said others present in the meeting have also said the accusations are untrue.
The office also said Hallinan’s work during her campaign had been ‘marked by frequent and repeated incidents of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior’ and said he had ‘played no role whatsoever in the governor’s administration’.
Hallinan, who now runs his own communications firm, worked for Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas prior to joining Lujan Grisham’s campaign.
Last month, Lujan Grisham waded into the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo (above)
News of the settlement comes one year after the governor signed a bill into state law limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual misconduct cases.
The law, signed in March and going into effect in May 2020, bans employers from requiring employees to sign NDAs about sexual harassment, assault, discrimination or retaliation claims.
Last month, Lujan Grisham also waded into the sexual harassment allegations made against another Democratic governor.
Multiple women have come forward to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior and he is under investigation by the state attorney general.
Cuomo denies touching anyone inappropriately.
Lujan Grisham, leader of the Democratic Governors Association, told the Washington Post the allegations against Cuomo were ‘troubling’.
‘I’m, frankly, in that group of elected leaders, that you believe the individual, you give real credit and credibility there, if you don’t, we are revictimizing brave men and women who come forward,’ she said.
However the governor has not joined bipartisan calls for Cuomo to resign.