House Speaker Don Tripp said late Wednesday that he will create a special legislative panel to investigate the criminal charges against Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a move that marks the first step toward possible impeachment proceedings. The House speaker, a Socorro Republican, did not specify who would be appointed to the House panel, but said it would be made up of either 8 or 10 members, with an equal number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers. He also sent a letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas on Wednesday, asking that evidence from the case be made available to the committee. “Given the serious nature of the allegations made by the attorney general against the secretary of state, I believe the appropriate and responsible next step for the House of Representatives is to begin the process of determining whether these charges have merit and rise to the level of impeachment,” Tripp said in a statement.
Duran, a second-term Republican, has faced pressure to resign since a slew of charges were filed last week related to her alleged conversion of campaign contributions to personal use, including gambling.
The Attorney General’s Office alleged 64 total violations in the criminal complaint and investigation, most of them dating back to 2013 and 2014. Although the amounts withdrawn at casinos run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the counts against her revolve around 19 transactions totaling about $13,000.