Democratic senators remove Padilla from leadership position

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Disclosure: The author of this article has opined on this issue, and his girlfriend is among those who pushed for Padilla to leave the lieutenant governor’s race.

Democratic leaders in the N.M. Senate had words of praise for Michael Padilla even as their caucus removed him over the weekend from a leadership position.

Michael Padilla

Courtesy photo

Michael Padilla

“Senator Padilla is a valued member of the New Mexico state Senate,” said Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. “We look forward to supporting his ongoing legislative efforts to create jobs and help New Mexico families.”

And Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said she appreciates “everything Senator Padilla has accomplished.”

“He is a strong and compassionate advocate for the people of New Mexico,” Papen said.

Senate Democrats made the decision during a closed-door meeting to remove Padilla, D-Albuquerque, from the position of majority whip. Padilla has been plagued recently by the resurfacing of lawsuits from a decade ago charging him with creating a “sexually hostile” workplace while tasked with overhauling Albuquerque’s 911 dispatch center.

Earlier this month, Padilla quit his bid to become the state’s next lieutenant governor, saying he didn’t want to become a distraction.

Senate Democrats will decide at a later meeting who will replace Padilla as their whip. Padilla intends to remain in the Senate.

A decade ago, Padilla was accused of asking dispatch employees for dates despite objections, making sex jokes, and saying women belonged at home having babies and making tortillas. Padilla has always denied the charges, saying his mistake was enacting reform too quickly.

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A City of Albuquerque investigation validated some allegations made against Padilla a decade ago. The city settled one lawsuit for $149,000. A jury sided with one of Padilla’s accusers in a second lawsuit, finding the city liable for subjecting the woman to a “sexually hostile work environment.” The city paid $1,200 to the woman and more than $101,000 in legal fees.

After Senate Democrats stripped Padilla of his leadership position this weekend, Padilla posted on Facebook that he appreciates the opportunity to have served in the job.

“Tomorrow is another day, and I will work just as hard as I always do,” Padilla wrote. “I look forward to continued partnerships with my colleagues to get New Mexico moving in the right direction again.”

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