A former member of the Wyoming Legislature has filed an ethics complaint on his cousin and current state Rep. Tamara Trujillo, R-Cheyenne, for voting in New Mexico elections while living in Wyoming.
In his complaint filed Monday, Cheyenne resident John Romero-Martinez accuses Trujillo of voting in New Mexico prior to becoming a Wyoming legislator, but while she was actively living in the Cowboy State.
Trujillo, a first-term legislator, defeated Romero-Martinez in the 2022 House District 44 Republican primary and then beat Democrat Sara Burlingame in the general election.
In his complaint submitted to House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Romero-Martinez implores Sommers to consider the “virtue of justice and mercy regarding the crystal-clear evidence that has been provided.”
He accuses his cousin of making false declarations or false assestations about her residency to vote in an out-of-state election. Romero-Martinez also cites a federal law prohibiting any member of the legislative branch from making materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, but Trujillo had not been elected at the time she cast her New Mexico votes.
Romero-Martinez had little to say about his ethics complaint beyond citing a quote from Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who said: “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”
What Did She Do?
In his complaint, Romero-Martinez provides New Mexico election record evidence showing that Trujillo voted in New Mexico from 2009-2019 while she was actively living and working in Wyoming. In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Trujillo did not dispute this.
Trujillo had previously lived in New Mexico full-time but moved back to Wyoming in 2007 after she had a child and to work at the HF Sinclair refinery in Cheyenne. According to her LinkedIn profile, Trujillo worked this job until 2020.
The records show Trujillo voted in New Mexico elections in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2019, most of the time voting by absentee ballot.
Trujillo gives two main reasons for why she voted in New Mexico while working and living in Wyoming.
During that time and currently, Trujillo said she owns property with water rights in Mora County, New Mexico, that she had inherited through her family. She also has an extensive family there and frequently travels back to the state and stays with her relatives.
Trujillo said she only rented homes in Cheyenne during this time and had always expected to move back to New Mexico within 10 years.
“My vested interest was based out of New Mexico,” she said.
Trujillo also said she was open about voting in New Mexico at the time despite helping with certain Wyoming political campaigns.
“So, I would always push politics here for conservatives,” she said. “That’s just how I was raised, you have to be involved one way or another.”
Trujillo, who has one of the most conservative voting records in the Wyoming Legislature, was registered as a Democrat in New Mexico as of 2022 when Romero-Martinez did his records request.
It wasn’t until she bought a home in Cheyenne and started having grandchildren in Wyoming did Trujillo become more committed to Wyoming and interested in its politics, she said.
No allegations have been brought that she voted in both states.
“There’s nothing illegal about what I did, and I didn’t vote in Wyoming and New Mexico at the same time,” she said.
When Trujillo was moved to a new voting district as a result of redistricting changes in 2022, she looked at the other choices on the ballot of Romero-Martinez and Burlingame, a former legislator, and decided to run.
“I cannot even believe John won an election in the first place, but he won because the Republicans didn’t want Sara in there,” Trujillo said. “I didn’t want John to represent me, so I ran.”
She describes Romero-Martinez’s investigation into her voting record as “very stupid,” and that she expects him to run against her to regain his seat this fall.
What Qualifies Residency?
New Mexico law defines residency as “the residence of a person is that place in which his habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention to return.” It also states that a person does not gain residency in the state if it is “a place to which he comes for temporary purposes only.”
To vote in New Mexico, one must maintain an active driver’s license.
But it’s not mandatory in New Mexico for people to have a "permanent home" to register to vote. A resident can provide an alternative description of his or her residence, even if they are experiencing homelessness, as long as it enables the authorities to identify and assign a voting precinct to them.
What Will Happen?
The allegations made against Trujillo are for actions that took place outside the legislative body and before she took office. Current ethics rules only apply to legislative misconduct and do nothing to address infractions committed outside of the body.
Still, Romero-Martinez wants Sommers to consider taking action on the matter, which could possibly include removing Trujillo from office.
According to a recent Legislative Service Office memo, over the dozen years in which the current ethics complaint rule has been in effect, no complaints have advanced to the point where a special committee was formed to conduct an investigation about a lawmaker.
“How is this going to look in the history books that we keep letting people go with crimes?” Romero-Martinez questioned. “Why would young people want to get involved with politics if they keep seeing all this crime and corruption?”
Trujillo said Romero-Martinez is “unstable” and has been performing additional investigations on her family members in New Mexico.
“At the end of the day, truth is always the best way to go and I haven’t lied about anything,” Trujillo said. “I’m out here just trying to represent the people, trying to learn the ins and outs of government so I can get something for my district.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.