Candidate faces ethics charge

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Dennis Montoya has been accused of engaging in fraud and deceit

By Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — A Rio Rancho attorney who is pursuing a state Court of Appeals seat has been accused of professional misconduct, including lying to a court, failing to account for client money and engaging in fraud and deceit.

The state Supreme Court’s disciplinary board filed claims against Dennis Montoya on April 30 and disclosed them Tuesday, according to a copyright story by the Albuquerque Journal.

Montoya told the newspaper he will continue his campaign. His attorney, Charles Vigil, said Montoya acted in good faith.

The claims arose after oilfield worker Cody Utley died in an auto accident near Tucumcari in November 2002. Montoya represented Utley’s girlfriend, their son and the woman’s daughter in a life insurance claim, a workers compensation claim and a lawsuit.

The disciplinary board charged Montoya with a pattern of misconduct. The charges were unsealed after Montoya received them. He has 20 days to respond.

Montoya is running against Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi in the Democratic primary.

Vanzi was appointed to the Court of Appeals in the fall of 2008. Montoya announced his challenge earlier this year.

As a District Court judge in Albuquerque, Vanzi reported Montoya’s alleged

misconduct to the board in 2008. She was asked to oversee the settlement between the tire manufacturer and Montoya’s clients.

Questions arose about who was Utley’s legal heir and Vanzi appointed a guardian for his son. In early 2008, after an investigation by the guardian, Vanzi filed a lengthy complaint against Montoya with the disciplinary board.

Between 2003 and 2004, Montoya collected life insurance proceeds and settled a workers compensation case resulting from Cody Utley’s death. In 2005, he instituted a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the tire on the truck Utley was driving failed due to improper installation and a defect.

The complaint accuses Montoya of a series of misrepresentations in several legal actions and misleading Kosec on fee arrangements.

According to the complaint, before Vanzi’s involvement in the case, Montoya settled three claims for more than $226,000 without any money set aside for Utley’s son.