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Congratulations to Eddy County and Artesia on a successful and informative candidate debate, held Monday and Tuesday night at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center. There was quite a bit to be learned from each candidate on their positions on various issues, with the questions being very well structured.

During the debate for Eddy County Commission District 2, between Royce Pearson and Jon Henry, Commissioner Pearson called me out by name on an oil and gas issue, and I would like to clarify the situation to ensure there is no question of my support for Jon Henry. As part of my job, I am an active participant with both of the state trade associations for oil and gas. A few weeks ago, one of those associations undertook an important project to fight the Bureau of Land Management on another regulation they are trying to levy on the oil & gas industry.

As part of that project, I was asked to reach out to the Eddy County Commission, City of Artesia, Artesia Chamber of Commerce and the Artesia Public Schools for their support. To be very clear, I did not reach out to Commissioner Pearson personally, rather I reached out to the Eddy County Commission on an issue of great importance to the County. Therefore, in my mind, the implication during the debate that Commissioner Pearson did something for me personally is disingenuous at best, and it was unprofessional for name dropping to have occurred.

While on the subject of oil & gas, the question of the audit on oil & gas approved by the County Commission came up. In October 2015, the New Mexico Supreme Court held in Robinson v. Eddy County Commissioners that essentially, the county assessor may use County money to hire outside consultants when they don’t have the expertise to undertake a project on their own. The Supreme Court did not say the Commission was required to approve the audit, as Commissioner Pearson indicated during the debate, and has indicated in writing and on radio.

In April, his response to the question on why he voted to approve the audit was “Again, we had no choice other than to be in contempt of the NM Supreme Court, launching ourselves back into court at taxpayers’ expense. Further, I will not go to jail for anyone.” However, upon clarifying this with the County Attorney, we were advised that the attorney was neither asked nor commented on the Supreme Court decision, nor the issue of anyone being held in contempt. For Commissioner Pearson to go so far as to say he “will not go to jail for anyone,” is again, disingenuous at best.

In both of these instances, there appears to be a pattern of Commissioner Pearson either not clearly understanding the issues and giving responses based on these misunderstandings, or understanding the issues and giving disingenuous answers. Neither of those is good for the citizens of Artesia, or Eddy County, and is the reason I have chosen to support Jon Henry. If you had the chance to attend, or watch the debates, Jon Henry had clearly researched the issues, took the time to understand them, and developed accurate answers based on that understanding. That is the kind of person I want representing my interests on the Eddy County Commission and I hope the community will join me in voting for Jon Henry for Eddy County Commission District 2.

Claire Chase