State Representative Daymon Ely has raised the alarm that consumers have not been compensated for losses incurred from “illegal door-to-door sales tactics that allegedly ensnared uninformed consumers into binding 20-year power purchase agreements that ended up costing homeowners more than they were currently paying PNM.” Corrales attorney Ely has filed a complaint with the N.M. Attorney General saying that office has allowed private attorneys to receive $700,000 which could have gone to people who he thinks were victims.
“The Attorney General’s office is failing New Mexico’s consumers and the public’s right to transparency and open government,” Ely has written. “I do not say that lightly but, after months of reviewing pleadings and orders, talking to consumer advocates and hearing directly from the Attorney General, that is the inescapable conclusion. And, without a change in the culture at the Attorney General’s office, that failure will be hard-wired into the AG’s future prosecutions.”
That stems from complaints in 2017 that a solar power company was using high-pressure tactics when dealing with homeowners. “In 2018, on behalf of 2,300 consumers, the AG’s office filed a strong complaint against the company. Two years later, the case was resolved. As a result of the settlement, the consumers received no compensation and the long-term agreements remained.”
Ely said, the most shocking thing was that while the defendant company paid money as part of the settlement, that was not distributed to homeowners. “But instead of the money going to the consumers who had been allegedly bilked, $700,000 went to the private attorneys hired by the AG, and the remaining $1.2 million was used to help fund the operations of the AG’s office.”
Aly criticized the AG’s office for hiring private attorneys rather than conducting the action in-house. “This was the type of case that the AG’s office pursued in-house through its consumer division in prior years. Why are these types of cases now being sent to outside, private attorneys?” he asked. The House District 23 representative argues that the office should use “outside private attorneys sparingly, and only in those cases where the AG does not have the expertise or the resources to handle such cases.”
Attorney General Hector Balderas responded to Ely’s allegations in an op-ed article in the August 15 Albuquerque Journal saying the Corrales lawmaker has failed to support requests for better funding for the AG’s office. “Why has State Rep. Daymon Ely authorized the transfer of $85 million out of the consumer protection fund instead of directly spending it on consumer protection benefits?” Balderas asked.