SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A 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 recent automobiles from incursions by electric-car maker Tesla and different potential rivals.

Ken Ortiz retired in June as secretary of the Normal Companies 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 cast 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 strategy in Tesla’s yearslong battle to promote automobiles on to customers and minimize 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 finest geared up to deploy electrical automobiles and velocity the transition to cleaner transportation in response to local weather change.

Contacted by telephone, Ortiz mentioned Tesla “is just not actually the problem.”

He added: “We simply really feel that with the prevailing franchise regulation, exterior 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 Widespread Trigger New Mexico, mentioned the short transition by Ortiz from Cupboard secretary to business spokesman smacks of crony capitalism.

“The notion this creates, on the heels of the Tesla deal, is regarding,” Ferguson mentioned. “Every considered one of these items chips away on the state’s nationwide status as as to if companies can are available in and get a good shake. It hurts our financial system.”

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

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham mentioned Thursday by means of a spokeswoman that she would help reforms to the state’s statutory prohibition on direct new car gross sales if initiated and authorized by the Legislature.

Ortiz carved out a status as a trusted and expert public administrator in state authorities below 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 Companies Division in contracting multimillion-dollar enhancements to authorities buildings geared toward larger power 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 businesses with native automotive dealerships for the electrical Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf, fashions chosen for compatibility.

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

He mentioned 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 achieved 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 concerning the revolving door between authorities and business surfaced in 2016 when Ryan Flynn turned govt director of the New Mexico Oil and Gasoline Affiliation weeks after leaving his job as Setting Division secretary below then-Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

Lujan Grisham spokeswomen Nora Meyers Sackett mentioned Thursday the governor would help some kind of extra “cool off” interval if introduced ahead and authorized by the Legislature.