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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Cowboys for Trump video, Jan. 7, 2021

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As usual, it wasn’t business as usual during the monthly Otero County Commission meeting Thursday morning with beleaguered Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin’s making his professional and personal woes front and center. Griffin objected to an audit ordered by the county looking into his personal expenses incurred during his Cowboys for Trump trips around the country. The audit, completed by Kriegel/Gray/Shaw & Co., an accounting from Las Cruces, presented evidence that Griffin misused county funds for personal use. Griffin claimed the findings were “compiled by political enemies of mine inside the county—no doubt in question about that,” and that the findings were all speculation.

“Baloney. Its Baloney is what it is,” Griffin said, referring to the accusations against him. He claimed that accusations of using vehicles for personal use was all for county business, and claims it was all for the interest of Otero County. 

“This report filed by this accounting firm was all compiled from information from people who want to hurt my position as county commissioner,“ Griffin said. Griffin then proposed that another firm should step in to oversee the audit. He claims that the findings by the original audit are baseless. “I would’ve had no problem with this audit if they would have given me the common courtesy to be able to respond to the allegations,” he said. 

In response to Griffin’s protest about the findings and any bias that the firm may have against him, he was reminded by Julianne Hall, Otero County’s finance director, that the firm had been directed by the Attorney General’s office to look closer at Griffin’s misuse of public funds for personal use. The Attorney General’s investigation into Griffin’s spending is ongoing.

Paul Sanchez, a former Alamagordo mayoral candidate in 2018, spoke up during the meeting to support the proposal for a second audit. “I would absolutely welcome the idea of having another firm take a look at these things. The place where Mr. Griffin and I differ is whether or not the findings are substantiated.” Sanchez was hesitant about if the county should commit extra resources and time to a second audit, but he believed that a second firm would uphold the findings and be fair for Griffin. 

Following Sanchez’s support for a second audit, Griffin then decided that he didn’t want to go through the second audit. “It’s not because I’m threatened by it. The reason why I don’t want to go through it because I’ve gone through enough,” Griffin said. He also accused many of those in attendance of having a personal bias against him. “Some of y’alls whole lives revolve around me.” His claim was met with a round of laughter from those in attendance at the meeting. Sanchez and Griffin had another heated exchange about whether or not Griffin would actually agree to a second audit. 

Both Commissioner Vickie Marquardt and Gerald Matherly voted in favor of continuing the use of services of Kreigel/Gray/Shaw & Co., while Griffin voted against the measure. The audit report is expected to be made public in the near future.

Griffin is awaiting trial for charges related to the Capitol riots on Jan. 6. His trial is scheduled to begin at the end of June.

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