New Mexico government corruption
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"The Española School Board has claimed transparency will be the hallmark of its superintendent hiring process. So far, the Board has gone as far as skirting state open meetings and public records laws to keep the process under wraps.
The Board may have violated the state Open Meetings Act during a Nov. 1 closed-door meeting where it discussed the superintendent search process and other topics it is required to discuss publicly, according to an agenda of the meeting viewed by the SUN.
An agenda of the meeting distributed to the public stated the Board would meet in closed session to evaluate Superintendent David Cockerham and discuss a land transaction. Once behind closed doors, the Board followed a separate, different agenda listing six separate items, which had been kept from the public until Tuesday."
The State Investment Council (SIC) is writing off $27 million of a $55 million investment made in 2006 with a different firm, SIC spokesman Charles Wollman. Correra shared in $576,000 in fees paid out in the latest deal, with Northstar SIC Holding LLC.
The SIC and the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board write off $90 million they had invested with Chicago-based Vanderbilt Financial Trust. A lawsuit Correra is involved in encompasses his shared $2 million in fees for helping to arrange that deal.
In the latest deal, the SIC invested $55 million of a $90 million commitment in 2006 to Northstar SIC Holdings LLC. Northstar invested that money in two other projects, one a “high-risk, high-return” real estate development in Connecticut called Antares Investment Partners. This one later soured, Wollman explained.
A recent SIC report shows the market value of the agency’s SIC original $55 million investment is $12 million. Wollman said the SIC recovered $16 million of its original investment.
In order to get a greater return, the SIC invests money from the state’s four permanent funds. Leasing fees, taxes collected on the extraction of minerals in New Mexico and money from the national tobacco settlement, contribute to the permanent funds. The permanent funds are about 15 percent of the state’s annual budget and without them, each household in the state would pay an average of $800 more in taxes every year, according to the SIC’s website, the New Mexio Independent reported.
Santa Fe, NM The New Mexico Supreme Court has altered their rules for requesting records from the court system and will begin requiring an I.D. from requesters prior to release. The rule was adopted in February 2 and went into effect the week of February 14. The rule is a companion rule to a decision made by the court last year to begin requiring attorneys to submit two copies of court paperwork, one with identifying information for court use and one with that information redacted, for release to the public. The court argues that due to non-compliance with the previous rule, the I.D. requirement and a log of information relating to individuals requesting documents is necessary in order to protect the privacy interests of those associated with the courts. The New Mexico Foundation for Open government opposes the new rule, stating, ""It could be a violation of the Constitution if they deny records to people because they don't have I.D. There is a potential for abuse."
"Three Sunland Park city councilors have submitted a public records request to their own city government in an attempt to force the mayor to provide more information about a controversial land purchase for a new city hall.
City Councilors Elizabeth Martinez, Gabriela Buso and Yvette Cortez, a faction that often opposes Mayor Martin Resendiz, are seeking details about a $2.85 million land purchase for a new city hall that was approved by the council on Feb. 27, with the condition that an appraisal be conducted."
Santa Fe, NM On Monday, July 16, 2010 the New Mexico Court of Appeals released a landmark open records decision and ordered the release of complaints brought against police officers by citizens. The court rejected the New Mexico Department of Public Safety's argument that the records were exempt as "matters of opinion in personnel files" or "letters of reference concerning employment" but held that the personal information of the complaint filer needed to be redacted. It is unknown whether the department will appeal the decision. 
Borrego allegedly took the nearly $3.4 million from 10 district accounts between Jan. 8, 2002, and June 30, 2009. Now Borrego may face a long list of criminal charges.
The money she allegedly stole is equal to about $9,058.18 per student, based on the district’s 373 students enrolled last year.
“This is the largest case my office has ever seen in terms of a school embezzlement, and also in terms of how important this is to the community and to the state,” Balderas said.
Because the school district is small, the impact is especially harmful. The district budgeted about $8 million for operations and instructors’ salaries for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008. It reported slightly more than $21 million in total assets, according to the district's independent audit they submitted to the state auditor March 23, 2009.
Santa Fe, NM On June 25, the New Mexico Court of Appeals issued its decision in Republican Party v. New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, ruling in favor of the state and determining that the names and addresses of individuals applying for driver's licenses are exempt from the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. The documents were being sought as a part of an investigation into illegal immigrants and voter fraud in New Mexico.
Democratic consultant, Gutierrez & Associates Inc., paid by the state to produce TV spots about the Help America Vote Act can't account for more than $2 million paid to him. The consultant was budgeted to have spent $4.8 million on television ads but can only substantiate for $2.6 million spent.
Telephone numbers listed for the company in Albuquerque and Corpus Christi, Texas, have been disconnected. The firm's Armando Gutierrez didn't respond to an e-mail from The New Mexican on Wednesday, though he told the Independent in an e-mail he is "unaware of any such report."
A summary of the draft audit says the Secretary of State's Office, under Vigil-Giron, paid the Gutierrez company a total of $6.3 million; including a $1 million administrative fee that is not listed in the contract between the state and Gutierrez. The document also says the amount paid to Gutierrez for voter-education ads was $323,000 more than the contract allowed; the state made a duplicate payment of $186,000 for a video used to train poll workers; Gutierrez billed the Secretary of State for $373,000 for state gross-receipts taxes but only paid $55,400 in taxes; and the state's required "match" of $751,500 was not deposited in the proper fund.
Two former state treasurers, Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil, are serving federal prison sentences for their roles in what prosecutors said was a pay-to-play scheme involving extortion and kickbacks for state contracts and investments.
"The Albuquerque Journal is suing the New Mexico Department of Transportation, alleging that the agency violated the state Inspection of Public Records Act by withholding documents sought as part of an investigation into the agency's practices and the use of public funds.
The newspaper's complaint, filed in state district court, names as defendants the agency, its custodian of records and a handful of employees who allegedly participated in the decision to withhold records that had been requested under the act."
"Government agencies in New Mexico will have to accept electronic requests for public records after the governor signed a bill April 3 inspired by a state university's rejection of an e-mail request.
House Bill 598, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, states that communication by e-mail or fax qualifies as a "written" request required under state law."
"A new state law will require governmental institutions and agencies to accept e-mailed and faxed requests for public records.
" Who tried to deep-six New Mexico's public records law?
It's a Roundhouse mystery with an intriguing cast, including a powerful veteran Democratic lawmaker, a freshman Republican and a behind-the-scenes state lawyer who isn't returning a reporter's calls.
While questions abound, this much is clear: A sweeping rewrite of the state Inspection of Public Records Act was quietly inserted earlier this week into a bill aimed at beefing up the statute."
"New Mexicans convicted of a wide variety of misdemeanors and felonies could eventually have their criminal records erased from the public eye under a bill introduced in the state House.
If approved and signed by the governor House Bill 866 would not wipe clean the slate of certain criminals. Instead the public wouldn’t have access to criminal records after a specific length of time."
"The public would have better access to and could gain more understanding of the state government under several bills making progress this session.
Certain committees that are now closed would be open while government documents would become public sooner under the measures originating in the House.
The House Appropriations and Finance Committee today is expected to consider a measure that would open conference committees to the public. They are some of the last meetings legally closed to the public — and to lawmakers who are not members of the committees."
"Our governor is not going to be happy until he gets his hands all the way into our pockets, turns them inside out and shakes out every last penny, lint balls and all.
The New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government in 2003 fought a task force composed by the governor of various department heads and their select computer geeks. The task force by legislation was trying to create and implement an E-Portal that would be the answer to the governor’s revenue problems and force the public to pay for documents it already owns."
"We’re somewhat ambivalent to House Bill 237, sponsored by State Rep. Andrew Barreras, D-Valencia County. Barreras is taking advantage of a lean year to eliminate the demand by state law that public school districts publish their accountability reports in a newspaper of general circulation in their district.
Since all the school districts in Rio Arriba County, and Pojoaque school district too, have been routinely violating this law for the last decade, removing the requirement would just make them legal, at least in this regard.
This was a good law enacted in the early 1990s spurred by a demand for accountability in public schools because so many were slowly slipping off the end of the scale in test scores, violence and graduation rates. But which districts and by how much? Enter the accountability report."
"Though at least two other state agencies have publicly released similar documents, the New Mexico Finance Authority is refusing to hand over subpoenas it has been issued in the federal investigation into allegations of pay-to-play in the Richardson administration.
The finance authority also refuses to release the documents sought by such subpoenas.
NMI sought the records in two separate requests made under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The first, a narrow request, sought only subpoenas that have been issued in the federal investigation. The second, broader request sought all subpoenas related to any federal investigation received by the finance authority, and all documents requested in those subpoenas."
"The plaintiff in the alleged pay-to-play lawsuit involving the Educational Retirement Board and the State Investment Council has filed a complaint saying he was wrongfully denied records under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
The request by Frank Foy asked for "any and all records" related to board or advisory group meetings, Vanderbilt Capitol Advisors, Pioneer Investment Group, ERB chairman Bruce Malott, Meyners and Co., State Investment Officer Gary Bland and Foy, among other things.
The ERB denied the request, saying in part that it is overly broad. The complaint is against the ERB, Malott and Bland."
"Mitch Buszek suspects he was removed from the Santa Fe County Corrections Advisory Committee without his knowledge because he was asking too many questions. County Manager Roman Abeyta said Buszek's term was up and he was not nominated for reappointment.
The committee was formed in 2001 amid allegations of civil-rights violations at the county jail by the U.S. Department of Justice. It is charged with inspecting the adult and juvenile jails twice per year and making recommendations to the County Commission on how to improve conditions."
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