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.

"ABQ_City_Hall7" by J.R. VigiL is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices held the first of a series of hearings on Friday to weigh whether Sheriff Manny Gonzales was aware and complicit in the alleged forgery of signatures and contributing contributions on behalf of voters in violation of city campaign laws and possibly state fraud statutes.

The hearing was triggered by two ethics complaints filed by Mayor Keller’s campaign manager Neri Holguin alleging that the Gonzales campaign engaged in misconduct and forgery to qualify for public financing.

Gonzales’ Attorney Carter B. Harrison IV referred to the accusations and hearings as having “attributes of a witch hunt” during Friday’s session.

Legal representatives of Mayor Keller and Manny Gonzales agreed with the board’s proposal to push the hearing to August 27 to allow both parties to present sufficient evidence to arrive at a decision. The board also asked the city’s inspector general to open an investigation and deliver results before that hearing.

The board has the power to issue the Gonzales campaign a fine or refer to the matters concerning Gonzales to law enforcement. If found guilty, the board can issue a fine of up to $500 per violation.