Polygraph debate emerges in NM House race

Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Nambé

SANTA FE — WhistlePig whiskey and a sexual harassment investigation are already talking points in the tumultuous campaign for a northern New Mexico seat in the state House.

Now voters can add this to the conversation — a debate over the validity of lie detectors.

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Over the weekend, state Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Nambé, released a letter from a certified polygraph examiner — evidence, he contends, that he’s telling the truth when he denies sexually harassing a lobbyist for Animal Protection Voters.

The examiner, Eric W. Lucero, asked Trujillo whether he’d had sexual contact with the lobbyist’s private parts and whether her legislation was stalled because she refused his sexual advances. Trujillo answered “no.”

In a letter, Lucero estimated a “less than 0.1% probability this result was produced by a deceptive person.”

The questions aren’t a precise match for the allegations levied by Laura Bonar, a staff member for Animal Protection Voters.

She has accused Trujillo of propositioning her, touching her inappropriately and retaliating when she rejected his advances. But she didn’t say specifically that Trujillo had sexual contact with her private parts, as asked by the examiner.

Levi Monagle, an attorney for Bonar, said Trujillo should release a complete recording of the exam. The admission of polygraphs in New Mexico courts is restricted, he said, guided by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found no scientific consensus on their reliability.

“It’s a process that’s very easy to manipulate,” Monagle said.

Molly Schmidt-Nowara, an attorney for Trujillo, said the test was administered in compliance with court rules and that Trujillo had two additional experts review the test to ensure its validity.

“Put plainly,” she said, “Mr. Trujillo passed a polygraph examination which tested him on the core allegations that Ms. Bonar made against him. New Mexicans should feel secure in knowing that the polygraph examiner who tested Mr. Trujillo greatly exceeded the qualifications outlined in New Mexico’s Rules.”

Polygraphs measure blood pressure, breathing and other responses as an examiner asks questions.

Law enforcement agencies often use the tests to screen applicants. Federal law, however, prohibits most private employers from using them.

Andrea Romero, Democratic candidate for state House

The polygraph is just the latest development in one of the most hotly contested House races in the June 5 primary. Trujillo faces a challenge from Andrea Romero, an entrepreneur from Santa Fe.

She faces controversy of her own. Earlier this year, Romero agreed to repay some expenses to a regional coalition in Los Alamos — where she worked as the group’s executive director — after auditors questioned spending on baseball tickets and alcohol, including $28 for a glass of WhistlePig.

Trujillo, in turn, is the subject of an internal House investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment.

He has a cash advantage heading into the last few weeks of the campaign. Trujillo has about $36,000 in the bank, according to a report filed Monday. His contributors have included business groups and energy companies.

Romero reported $28,000 in cash on hand, with financial backing from a variety of New Mexico pueblos.

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