Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Southern New Mexico rancher Scott Chandler has agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit he filed, saying political consultant Jay McCleskey and a now-defunct political action committee circulated letters lies about him during a 2016 campaign.
McCleskey announced the settlement and Chandler admitted Tuesday that he negotiated the settlement with McCleskey’s insurance company The Hartford.
But he said McCleskey was “premature” in announcing the settlement before a final agreement was signed, and Chandler received a check from the insurance company.
“Until we see signings with Jay, (The) Hartford and I, it’s an active business,” Chandler said in a written statement. “Like I said before, until your cattle check clears the bank, it’s still not a done deal.”
The settlement deal was reached just three days after Chandler filed a November 1 petition asking a judge to add the former governor. Susana Martinez as defendant in the case. The motion was based on statements made by McCleskey in a recent testimony that Martinez played a key role in setting up the Advance New Mexico Now PAC.
“The court had not yet authorized Chandler to add Governor Martinez to the case” at the time of the Nov. 4 settlement, McCleskey said in a written statement. “Because my insurance company stepped in and fixed the problem, the court won’t have to rule on Governor Martinez’s request to add. “
Efforts to reach Martinez for comment last week were unsuccessful.
Chandler has not disclosed the amount of the settlement, but has said he will make it public if the parties to the case allow him to do so.
“Once we have a statement that shows we can state the amount paid, we will,” he said.
Chandler’s 2019 trial alleged that McCleskey and Advance New Mexico Now PAC circulated two letters about Chandler in an attempt to hurt his chances of winning the 2016 Republican primary for House District 32. Chandler lost the primaries. by 16 votes.
The lawsuit alleged that McCleskey and the PAC posted flyers during the 2016 primary that asked, “How did a company accused of child abuse and torture AVOID government surveillance?” The flyers were mailed to voters in House District 32 in Luna, Hidalgo and Grant counties.
The flyers referred to a 2013 New Mexico State Police investigation into Chandler’s Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program in Hillsboro, north of Deming. No criminal charges were laid as a result of the investigation.
Chandler has received legal settlements approaching $ 1 million from the state related to the investigation. The libel lawsuit against McCleskey also alleges that McCleskey advised the then governor. Martinez to execute the state police search of the Chandler Ranch in October 2013.
On November 1, Chandler asked a 6th District Judicial Court judge to add Martinez to the lawsuit, alleging that McCleskey recently implicated the former governor as a key PAC actor who “directly authorized the shipment. leaflets “.
McCleskey made the comments during an August 10 deposition in a related lawsuit that McCleskey has brought against his insurance company. In that lawsuit, McCleskey alleged that the company refused to pay its legal fees in Chandler’s lawsuit.
In his testimony, McCleskey said Martinez was involved in setting up and running the PAC, which is no longer active, the motion states.
“Governor Martinez has been involved in the management of the PAC, including decisions regarding proposed budgets, proposed targets and proposed districts,” the motion reads. “She participated in survey meetings and received survey information.”
The motion states that McCleskey described Martinez’s role within the PAC. According to the motion, McCleskey said that:
■ Martinez authorized him to say on behalf of the PAC that Chandler was not a good candidate for the general election in House District 32.
■ Martinez approved the content of the flyers targeting Chandler.
■ Martinez was “the principal” who authorized the PCB to distribute the leaflets and was consulted throughout the process.
■ He identified himself and Martinez as the two people most directly involved in approving the sender.
McCleskey is a prominent GOP consultant who helped Martinez twice win the governor’s race and served as an adviser in his administration.