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Roosevelt County citizens petition for governor investigation

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A fourth citizens’ petition has been filed accusing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of misusing her authority concerning COVID-19 mandates and orders.

The latest filing occurred Thursday morning in Portales in the New Mexico 9th Judicial District Court of Roosevelt County, according to filer Larry Marker and Shonnie Standefer with the Roosevelt County Patriots.

The petition is the same that was filed Sept. 3 in courts in Chaves, Lea and Eddy counties, Marker said. Those counties make up the state 5th Judicial District.

Brought under a provision of the New Mexico Constitution, the petition alleges malfeasance of office, misfeasance of office and violation of oath of office.

Marker said that, once accepted by the courts, the petitions become sealed. If judicial officers conclude that the allegations presented meet the cause of action and that a sufficient number of registered voters in the county have signed the petitions, the claims will be presented to a new or existing grand jury, usually with the local District Attorney’s Office serving as prosecutor. Lujan Grisham would be required to testify, a major goal for some of the people involved in the effort, including Marker, who has experience representing himself in lawsuits against the state regarding oil and gas regulations.

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Marker, Standefer and the signature-gatherers in Chaves County, who belong to Concerned Citizens for New Mexico, claim that Lujan Grisham has overstepped her authority in several ways during the coronavirus pandemic that began with the first executive order issued March 13, 2020.

They said her misactions include renewing executive and public health orders repeatedly instead of allowing the New Mexico Legislature to make decisions; closing or restricting certain types of businesses for extended periods of time; and mandating face coverings in public schools and required vaccinations for some New Mexico residents.

Marker and Standefer said that some Roosevelt County residents were the initiators of the action there.

“We reached out to him (Marker). I actually heard about him from a gentlemen in Curry County,” said Standefer.

She and her group then worked to gather signatures at local businesses and during the county fair, receiving 630 signatures when they needed 212. The law requires 2% of registered voters, or 200 voters, whichever is the greater number, for the citizens’ petition to be considered.

Standefer said that the Roosevelt County Patriots are “very concerned about the governor’s overreach.” She said they began meeting over concerns about business closures and worries that the state orders that barred most in-person instruction at public schools were causing students academic and emotional difficulties. She said the group felt “defeated” when the Portales school board did not change policies, but believe that the citizens’ petitions offer an option for regaining “a free county, a free town, a free state.”

“There was hope there that something could be done,” Standefer said. “There is a possibility that the people can take back the state. I think we are all just desperate for hope right now. We are awfully close to that Texas state line, and I talked to a gentlemen just yesterday who works for the Dora schools and they lost three families just this last week because they are sending them over to Texas so they can play sports without a mask and can go to school without a mask. We are losing hope and we are scared to death — we are just losing a lot of good people.”

Supporters have said that they want the petition effort to be introduced in courts in all 33 counties. Marker said Curry and Lincoln counties are close to having enough signatures for petitions.

“The timing and everything is up to the counties because it is a separate action in each county,” said Marker. “These people completely control their own. The only thing I am a part of is that I am witness to the whole deal and I do their typing and stuff for them.”

Nora Sackett, press secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said that she had no comment on the petitions but added that they “sound to be quite divorced from the reality in which we all live.” She said that “the facts and science regarding COVID-19 and the efficacy of both masks and vaccines are very clear.”

The citizens’ petitions are supported by the Republican Party of New Mexico.

“She continually attacked the personal freedoms and rights of New Mexicans, and it’s encouraging that people are speaking out and seeking legal measures to challenge the governor’s illegal actions,” Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce stated in a news release.

Pearce claimed that Lujan Grisham’s illegal actions include fining businesses and restricting worship services during the pandemic.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in November 2020 that the state was within its rights to fine businesses that operated contrary to COVID public health orders, a ruling decried by the state Republican Party. The state Supreme Court also decided that COVID-related business closures did not represent “government takings” and that the state was not required to compensate businesses for financial losses. Lawsuits about face masks and vaccination mandates are continuing.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.