SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A just lately retired state Cupboard secretary who oversaw New Mexico’s first main foray into electrical automobiles for presidency fleets has gone to work at a lobbying group for automotive dealerships as they safeguard state-authorized management over direct gross sales of latest automobiles from incursions by electric-car maker Tesla and different potential rivals.

Ken Ortiz retired in June as secretary of the Normal Providers Division. He has begun work as president of the New Mexico Automotive Sellers Affiliation by publicly defending New Mexico’s ban on direct gross sales of motor automobiles and highlighting native employment supplied by auto dealerships.

Tesla solid a route across the state’s direct-sales prohibition final month because it opened a retailer and restore store on autonomous Native American land at Nambé Pueblo in northern New Mexico. It marked a brand new method in Tesla’s yearslong battle to promote automobiles on to customers and lower dealerships out of the method.

The corporate led by enterprise magnate Elon Musk can promote and repair its automobiles freely in solely a few dozen states.

In commentary delivered this week to information shops, Ortiz asserted that new-car dealerships — and never direct-to-consumer producers — are greatest geared up to deploy electrical automobiles and velocity the transition to cleaner transportation in response to local weather change.

Contacted by telephone, Ortiz stated Tesla “is just not actually the difficulty.”

He added: “We simply really feel that with the present franchise legislation, outdoors of the sovereign nations, that sellers are there for a motive. We’re imbedded in native communities, we’re contributing to state tax {dollars}, with payroll.”

Heather Ferguson, govt director of the federal government accountability group Frequent Trigger New Mexico, stated the short transition by Ortiz from Cupboard secretary to trade spokesman smacks of crony capitalism.

“The notion this creates, on the heels of the Tesla deal, is regarding,” Ferguson stated. “Every one in all this stuff chips away on the state’s nationwide repute as as to whether companies can are available and get a good shake. It hurts our financial system.”

Proposals to permit direct automobile gross sales with out a dealership have met with rejection by the state Legislature, as just lately as 2019.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stated Thursday by way of a spokeswoman that she would assist reforms to the state’s statutory prohibition on direct new automobile gross sales if initiated and accredited by the Legislature.

Ortiz carved out a repute as a trusted and expert public administrator in state authorities beneath Democratic and Republican elected leaders, with roles starting from motorized vehicle division director to secretary of the state labor company.

Appointed in 2019 by Lujan Grisham, Ortiz guided the Normal Providers Division in contracting multimillion-dollar enhancements to authorities buildings geared toward higher vitality effectivity, incorporating solar energy and lowing electrical energy payments.

Underneath Ortiz, the company additionally launched plug-in electrical automobiles to the state fleet — and negotiated standardized pricing for presidency companies with native automotive dealerships for the electrical Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf, fashions chosen for compatibility.

Ortiz stated he was at the least two steps faraway from these negotiations with dealerships.

He stated the New Mexico Automotive Sellers Affiliation has contract lobbyists.

“Thus far I haven’t registered as a lobbyist but as a result of I’ve finished no work with legislators,” Ortiz famous.

Ethics legal guidelines in most states present a compulsory ready interval earlier than somebody leaving public workplace can interact in lobbying or register as a lobbyist.

New Mexico has no “cooling off” interval earlier than former public officers can foyer legislators. The state’s Authorities Conduct Act has a one-year ready interval earlier than a former public official can foyer the company the place they labored.

Considerations in regards to the revolving door between authorities and trade surfaced in 2016 when Ryan Flynn turned govt director of the New Mexico Oil and Fuel Affiliation weeks after leaving his job as Setting Division secretary beneath then-Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

Lujan Grisham spokeswomen Nora Meyers Sackett stated Thursday the governor would assist some type of further “cool off” interval if introduced ahead and accredited by the Legislature.