Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Mayoral Campaign Pivots Back To Keller Extramarital Affair Alleged By Gonzales; City Attorney Warns Political Consultant Hallinan To Cease "Sexual Harassment" Of Airport Director Nyika Allen; Hallinan Fires Back; Details Next On Your Monster Wednesday Blog 

The calmness of the ABQ mayoral race in the aftermath of a Journal poll Sunday showing Mayor Tim Keller with an enormous lead evaporated Tuesday as Keller--not his political opponents--pivoted back to the allegation made by BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales that Keller had an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

Gonzales offers no evidence and Keller's wife publicly backed up her husband against the adultery allegation that was made during a statewide TV debate. The sheriff was widely derided for going in the gutter but what was to be a one and done event has been resurfaced--somewhat incredulously--by the Keller administration itself. 

Rattled by a Tweet from political consultant James Hallinan that claimed the woman involved with the Mayor is Nyika Allen, 31, Director of the ABQ Sunport, Keller blinked.

City Attorney Esteban Aguilar fired off a letter to Hallinan alleging he was sexually harassing Allen and warning him that further Tweets could result in him being barred from city property and even criminally charged. 

Mayor Keller
Hallinan, the fiery consultant for Save Our City, the outside PAC supporting Gonzales, was having none of it and let loose with a legal letter of his own asserting his First Amendment rights and accusing the Keller administration of Trump like tactics. 

The political community reeled. Why was Keller relitigating the salacious allegations with only days left in the campaign and especially with a commanding lead that shows no signs of eroding under the weight of Gonzales' allegations?

The Keller camp argued that Allen had to be defended from the trolling of Hallinan, that she was threatened and it is up to the administration to protect their employees. But that did not address the risky politics of the move. Analyst Greg Payne:

It was not a good move. In fact it was a dumb move. The Mayor has been on easy street and now he diverts the car to these tabloid charges that are not believed by the public. By bringing them back they could cause damage in the final days. No one's life is in danger here. This is social media trolling gone haywire. Keep it in perspective. The public at large is not in on this. They couldn't wait until after the election to respond? This is a rank amateur decision. Keller is still on his way to winning with over 50 percent but this reeks of panic and revenge--not calm and cool strategy. And it doesn't bode well for his political future. 

Contrary to Payne, one of the Alligators chimed in:

Just because he is running for re-election, doesn't mean he isn't Mayor. Keller has a responsibility to protect city employees coming under attacks that are threatening. It doesn't matter if the employee in question has been made a campaign issue. The mayor did not bring back the sordid charges, Hallinan did and the mayor and city attorney responded as they should have--with speed and decisiveness. 


Nyika Allen
Okay, let's dive into the back and forth between Hallinan, a gay man, who, ironically, won a $150,000 settlement from MLG's Guv campaign when he accused her of sexual harassment by throwing a bottle of water on his crotch and making demeaning comments. Now he's the one being charged. 

First the city attorney's letter to Hallinan and then Hallinan's response. 

City Attorney Esteban Aguilar: 

This correspondence addresses your sexually harassing conduct against Nyika Allen, the Director of Aviation, and demands that you correct this conduct and cease and desist from any further sexually harassing actions against Ms. Allen. 

. . . You published a tweet from your personal Twitter account . . . that consists of entirely unsubstantiated and false information regarding Director Allen. This post includes sexually harassing comments that Director Allen. . .is having an affair with Mayor Tim Keller. As part of this post you have included the ABQ International Sunport official Twitter handle along with the Twitter handles of Ms. Allen's supervisors within the city. Such actions are not only abhorrent but also constitute sexually harassing behavior of a city employee. . . The city has a zero tolerance policy against the harassment of its employees. . .

The City therefore demands that you cease and desist your harassing behavior against Director Allen and terminate your use of any official City social media pages, including its public Twitter handle for the Sunport, in a sexually harassing manner against Director Allen. 

This letter also provides you with notice that any further illegal, sexually harassing conduct against Ms. Allen, as Director of the Sunport, or any other City employee, may constitute reason for the City to prohibit access to any relevant City owned property or facilities, or from allowing use and access of its social media outlets and accounts. 

Please note should your activities escalate against Director Allen, the city will consider requesting review by the District Attorney's office for any criminal conduct. 


Attorney Stalter
The response from Hallinan via ABQ attorney Kenneth Stalter:

In that tweet, Mr. Hallinan referred to an “alleged affair”and stated that City officials should make themselves available to answer media questions. You accused Mr. Hallinan of sexual harassment and threatened that you would prohibit access to City property, prohibit “use and access of [the City’s] social media outlets and accounts,” and seek prosecution by the district attorney’s office. 

As you know, Mr. Hallinan’s call for public officials to answer questions is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 17 of the New Mexico Constitution. Constitutional protections extend to the use of social media, and the government may not ban, block, or retaliate against protected use of social media. This was decided in a case against former President Trump: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, 928 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2019). I suggest you familiarize yourself with that case.

It is unfortunate that the City is resorting to tactics associated with former President Trump. I trust that after you review the social media cases involving Trump, you will cease all efforts to retaliate against Mr. Hallinan for his tweet demanding transparency from the Keller administration. 

Now what? The Gonzales campaign says the proof of the affair and an alleged domestic violence incident between the Mayor and his wife is in city records and they have filed a records request. The Keller camp stresses there are no such records. 

This will not be resolved before the election. 

That unproven allegations of personal misconduct have snaked their way into the mainstream of a campaign is reprehensible. That Keller appears to have taken the bait thrown his way is disappointing to many of his supporters. 

If the response was indeed an overreaction and and not prompted by a legitimate need to immediately respond to a city employee done wrong, it was a very human one. In the new world of anything goes our political world of yore is often unrecognizable. It is not sentimental or nostalgic to say that the old world is missed. 


Ex-APD Chief Mike Geier
The last TV ads of the mayoral campaign are hitting the TV screens. Many Gonzales comes with this one featuring former APD Chief Mike Geier who was forced out by Mayor Keller

I was Mayor Keller's police chief. Take it from me. Tim Keller puts politics ahead of public safety. Keller is soft on crime and does not support our police officers. I saw it firsthand, and worse, Tim Keller has a real problem telling the truth. All of Manny's deputies wear body cameras. Sheriff Gonzales is a man of integrity. He'll fight crime and end the homeless epidemic. If we want things to change, then we need to change mayors. Manny Gonzales for mayor.

The Keller camp calls the ad "sour grapes" over Geier's ouster. They also point out that Gonzales fought lapel cameras for his deputies for years and only relented when the Legislature mandated them.   

Geier makes a strong TV presence, actually much stronger than when he was police chief and ultimately lost his job as crime skyrocketed under his watch--as well as Keller's.

We covered on the Oct. 13 blog a compare and contrast ad on crime Keller in which he mentions Gonzales' resistance to those lapel cameras videos. 


About 38,000 votes had been cast in the city election as of early this week, according to the BernCo Clerk Linda Stover. Campaign consultants think total turnout should be in the 90,000 area or about 25 percent of those registered. A number much above that will generally favor the leading Dem candidate and below it would be favorable to the R's.


That's your Wednesday Monster Blog, kids. There's more to come in the closing days of Campaign '21 because you don't get to be #1 by faking it.

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