Keller Accuses Gonzales of Election Fraud; Alleges Gonzales Campaign Paid $5.00 Qualifying Donation For Donor; Both Keller and Gonzales Are Ethically Challenged

From April 17 to June 19, 2021, or 64 days, publicly financed candidates for Mayor must gather 3,779 qualifying donations of $5.00 to secure $661,309.25 in public financing. The 3,774 qualifying donations is based on the city’s registered voters and Candidates are required to collect qualifying contributions from 1% of the registered voters. The $5.00 qualifying donations must come from registers voters who live within the city limits, otherwise the donations are disqualified.

Both Mayor Tim Keller and Sheriff Manny Gonzales are seeking public financing for their campaigns. Two other candidates for Mayor also sought public financing with one dropping out of the race citing difficulty in collecting the $5 donations during the pandemic and another one having only collected 3 donations.

Candidates seeking public funding have until June 19 to obtain 3,779 qualifying $5 contributions to qualify for the $661,309 in public financing. The city’s election code requires the $5 qualifying contributions be paid by the contributor listed on the receipt and not by a candidate’s campaign. The city election code states:

“if the funds are provided by any other person other than the contributor who is listed on the receipt, the qualifying contributions will be deemed fraudulent.”
The link to the City election code is here:



On June 6, it was reported that Mayor Tim Keller’s reelection campaign filed an ethics complaint against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales alleging Gonzales personally told a voter that he did not have to pay a $5 contribution and that he would cover the $5.00 qualifying donation.

The Keller complaint accuses Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales of fraud. According to the affidavit filed, Gonzales and accompanying Sheriff Deputies attended a Salvation Army Advisory Board at their invitation, asked the board members to sign a document saying they had provided a $5 “qualifying contribution” that would allow Gonzales to qualify for public financing. The ethics complaint alleges the Gonzales’ campaign submitted the contribution receipt to the City Clerk’s Office on June 1.

The ethics complaint was accompanied by an affidavit from Dean Zantow, a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, who stated Gonzales attended a May 27 board meeting as an invited guest. After speaking to the board, Gonzales and two Deputy Sheriff’s asked board members to sign nominating petition to place Gonzales on the November 2 ballot as a candidate for mayor. Then they were asked to sign donations receipts.

Zantow in his sworn affidavit said he agreed to fill out a receipt showing that he had provided a $5 qualifying contribution, then asked Sheriff Gonzales “Am I supposed to give you $5?” According to the affidavit, Gonzales allegedly stated, “No, that’s OK, we’ll cover that.” Attached to the ethics complaint is a copy of a $5 contribution receipt, dated May 27, signed by both Zantow and Gonzales.

It turns out that Zantow later made a $5 contribution to the Keller campaign when he informed a Keller campaign worker that Gonzales had not required him to pay $5. The campaign worker then alerted the Keller campaign.


Megan McMillan, a Gonzales campaign official, called the complaint “baseless” and said “neither Sheriff Gonzales nor the campaign covered any contribution.”


All candidates for Mayor seeking public financing are given a mere 64 days to collect the 3,779 qualifying donations of $5.00 and the 3,000 nominating petition signatures from Albuquerque registered voters. Collecting the nominating signatures very easy, but not so easy collecting the $5,00 donations because of people’s reluctance to donate to politicians.

The $5.00 qualifying donations are donations made to the city and not the candidates. If a candidate seeking public financing donations does not secure the 3,779 qualifying $5 donations made to the city, all the money reverts to the city. It cannot be kept or given to the candidate that collected the donations.

Candidates that decide to go with private financing as well as measured finance committees for candidates can solicit unlimited cash donations from any source including out of city and state contributions.

With public financing, receipts must be issued by both the donor and the collector of the donation. The receipt requires the donor to certify they are a registered donor and that they are making the donation and soliciting party must also sign the receipt. The original receipt is given to the donor and copies of receipts and the cash are turned into the city clerk’s office for verification.

Once all the 3,779 qualifying donations are turned in, the city transfers the entire $661,309.25 in public financing within 24 hours into the candidate’s campaign bank account.

As a condition to receiving public financing from the City, a public financed candidate must agree to a spending cap not to exceed the amount given and agree not to raise and spend any more cash to financed their campaign.


As of June 7, City Clerk numbers for Processed $5.00 Qualifying Contributions are as follows:


Required $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 3,779
Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 3,703
Rejected $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 294
Remaining $5.00 Qualifying Contributions Needed: 76
Percentage of Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 98%
Remaining $5.00 Qualifying Contributions Needed: 129


Required $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 3,779
Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 2,542
Rejected $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 216
Remaining $5.00 Qualifying Contributions Needed: 1,237
Percentage of Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 67%


Required $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 3,779
Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 2,542
Rejected $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 216
Remaining $5.00 Qualifying Contributions Needed: 1,237
Percentage of Verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions: 67%

Gonzales has collected 2,794 of the required 3,000 signatures, or 93%. Gonzales needs to collect another 206 verifiable signatures, which is highly likely over a 12 full day period.

A problem for Gonzales is that his campaign is struggling to collect the verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions. The Gonzales campaign has collected 2,542 verified $5.00 Qualifying Contributions or 67%. Gonzales needs to collect another 1,237 donations or at least 106 plus 1 qualifying $5 donations a day for the next full 12 days which is a very daunting task.

If Gonzales does not qualify for public finance, he could declare he will seek private financing and stay in the race but it will be a major setback to his campaign. All the $5.00 qualifying donation Gonzalez has collected are donations made to the city. The Gonzales campaign cannot keep the the donations and the campaign will get no public financing. Gonzales will no doubt ramp up private donation efforts but donors will be reluctant to contribute to both him and a measured finance committee. Another impact of failure to qualify for public finance will be to dry up private contributions to the two measured finance committees set up to promote him.


As of June 7, following are the City Clerk numbers for Processed Petition Signatures:


Required Petition Signatures: 3,000
Verified Petition Signatures: 3,542
Rejected Petition Signatures: 503
Remaining Petition Signatures Needed: 0
Percentage of Verified Petition Signatures Met: 100%


Required Petition Signatures: 3,000
Verified Petition Signatures: 2,794
Rejected Petition Signatures: 442
Remaining Petition Signatures Needed: 206
Percentage of Verified Petition Signatures Met: 93%


On June 1, candidate for Mayor Manny Gonzales held a campaign event at Revel Entertainment Center in Northeast Albuquerque. About 70 people, including children, had gathered to hear him speak. Before the event was over, a drone with a dildo dangling beneath it flew next to the stage. A man was arrested and booked into jail on charges of petty misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor resisting, evading or obstructing an officer. Gonzales was quick to charge that the Keller campaign had something to do with the incident which the Keller campaign denied. Keller’s campaign manager Neri Olguin went so far as to say that Gallegos was desperate.

Gonzales suggested that the stunt with the drone may have been sent by the rival campaign of Mayor Tim Keller. The Keller’s campaign condemned the stunt as “disruptive, rude and immature” and denied any involvement, but took a swipe at Gonzales when Keller campaign manager Neri Holguin said:

“To suggest we were behind it is pathetic and the kind of desperation that has marked Manny’s troubled campaign.”

Now we have the Keller campaign filing ethics charges based on one donation essentially alleging wide spread fraud within the Gonzales campaign. The ethics complaint by the Keller campaign against the Gonzales campaign should be taken seriously, but it also reflects a degree of hypocrisy by Gonzales and Keller both. Truth is both Sheriff Gonzales and Mayor Tim Keller are ethically challenged with Keller admonished in the past also involving his current campaign manager Neri Olguin.


Gonzales essentially presumed and made the allegation that the Keller campaign was behind the sex toy incident without any evidence to back it up. This coming from a law enforcement official who should know you need evidence of wrongdoing.

Candidates for Mayor are required to meet with the City Clerk and the entire process of collecting the $5.00 donations is explained to them. Gonzales knows the $5.00 donations must come directly from donors. One donation however does not make widespread fraud and the city campaign finance auditor needs to investigate and determine how many other donations has the Sheriff name on the receipts and if he in fact advanced the donation. The likely penalty would be invalidating the donation, not the Gonzales candidacy.

If Gonzales did in fact tell the donor he would cover the donation, such an action sends the clear message that Gonzales feels he is above the law. More troubling, if he volunteered to pay the donation and personally sign the receipt, there is an element of fraud upon the donor by misleading the donor to get the donors signature on the receipt or on the nominating petition.


Four years ago when then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller ran his successful campaign for Mayor, he was the only candidate out of 8 candidates to qualify for public fiancé. Keller had two separate ethics charges filed against him.

One complaint filed against Tim Keller’s campaign involved the allegation that “cash donations” for political consulting were reported as “in-kind” donations.

The Election Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices ruled that the cash contributions were in fact an ethical violation but that the Keller Campaign acted in “good faith” and there was an “unintentional” violation of the ordinances with the Keller Campaign receiving an admonishment and with no fines.

A second complaint file against the Keller campaign was that the Keller Campaign for Mayor committee was coordinating their campaign and expenditures with ABQ Forward Together. Neri Holguin was the chairperson “ABQ Forward Together”, the progressive measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote progressive Tim Keller for Mayor in 2017. “ABQ Forward Together” raised over $663,000 for Keller’s 2017 bid for Mayor as Keller qualified for public financing and given $340,000 for his 2017 campaign for Mayor. In 2009, Neri Holguin was the campaign manager for former State Senator Richard Romero against then Mayor Marty Chavez and RJ Berry. Many believe within the Democratic Party that Romero split the Democratic vote with Chavez resulting in the election of Mayor Richard Berry.

In 2021, Neri Olguin is the campaign manager for Tim Keller’s re-elction bid and another measured finance committee has been set up by Keller supporters. On April 26, one measured finance committees was formed to support Mayor Tim Keller’s bid for a second 4 year term identified as “ BUILD BACK ‘BURQUE”. Chairperson for “Build Back ‘Burque” is Michelle Mayorga, a highly experience progressive fund raiser and treasurer is the former Democrat Party Treasurer Robert Lara.


At this point in time it is obvious that there will be only 2 candidates for Mayor out of the 4 announced, who will make the November 2, ballot. Further, it is more likely than not that Mayor Time Keller will be the only candidate that will qualify for public finance, with Sheriff Manny Gonzales falling far short of collecting the 3,779 qualifying $5.00 donations. It’s a damn shame.

The city is facing any number of problems that are bringing it to its knees. Those problems include the coronavirus pandemic, business closures, high unemployment rates, exceptionally high violent crime and murder rates, continuing mismanagement of the Albuquerque Police Department, failed implementation of the Department of Justice reforms after a full six years and millions spent, declining revenues and gross receipts tax, increasing homeless numbers, lack of mental health programs and little to none economic development.

The city cannot afford another mayor who makes promises and offers only eternal hope for better times that result in broken campaign promises. What is needed is a mayor who actually knows what the hell they are doing, who will make the hard decisions without an eye on the next election, not make decisions only to placate their base and please only those who voted for them. What’s needed is a healthy debate on solutions and new ideas to solve our mutual problems, a debate that can happen only with a contested election.

The time frame for privately finance candidates to collect the 3,000 nominating petition signatures for Mayor begins June 8 to August 10. Gathering 3,000 nominating petition signatures is extremely easier than collecting the $5.00 qualifying donations.

Anyone one interested in running for Mayor and who has a real love for this city and is concerned about what is happening is encouraged to contact the City Clerk’s office.

The link to the city web site for candidates is here:

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.