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New Mexico governor settles with former campaign aide over claim of unwanted sexual behavior

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDC mayor admitted to Democratic governors group amid statehood fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting MORE (D) has reached a settlement with a former spokesperson for her 2018 gubernatorial campaign who accused her of unwanted sexual behavior.

The settlement was first reported by The Albuquerque Journal on Monday, which said that the campaign made at least $62,500 in payments to a law firm representing James Hallinan.

In December 2019, Hallinan accused the governor of pouring water on his crotch and grabbing it through his clothes in front of other staffers during a campaign meeting in 2018.

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Rachel Berlin Benjamin, who represents Hallinan, told The Hill, “Governor Lujan Grisham and Mr. Hallinan have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction. I am not able to provide any further information.”

The Journal reported that Lujan Grisham’s campaign made five monthly payments of $12,500 from November through March which are listed as legal expenses.

 

Jared Leopold, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s campaign, told The Hill that the campaign reached an agreement with Hallinan “settling 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. The settlement agreement fully resolves the disputed potential claims." 

Leopold added that the governor and her campaign "strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan's claims." He said the settlement was reached "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 press secretary Nora Meyers Sackett told The Hill “the state doesn’t have any comment as this is not official state business. Our office maintains there is no merit to the allegations.”

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The settlement comes as fellow Democratic Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo's communications director resigns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Broadway to fully reopen in September MORE of New York battles allegations of sexual misconduct of his own. Lujan Grisham told The Washington Post in early March that the allegations are troubling and needed to be taken seriously.

Lujan Grisham is the chair of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and was at one point under consideration to join President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE’s cabinet.

The DGA didn’t return The Hill’s request for comment, but the Republican Governor’s Association slammed the settlement, and called on Lujan Grisham to apologize

“The payments certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story, and Governor Lujan Grisham should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Will Reinert said in a statement.

— Updated at 5:29 p.m.