ABQ mayoral money coming from beyond NM

Out-of-state money in local elections is nothing new. Statewide and legislative races in New Mexico are often funded, to varying degrees, by individuals or Political Action Committees from other parts of the country. With less than three months before the mayoral race, candidates are filing their campaign contribution reports with varying donation amounts from around New Mexico—and in some cases all around the country. Both New Mexico and Albuquerque campaign finance laws allow for out of city and out of state contributions. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said members of the public may not like the idea of out-of-state money funding a mayoral campaign, but that ultimately without a clear instance of quid pro quo it’s allowed.

Audit finds city may have violated law with water deal

A special audit of the city of Jal found government officials in the southeastern New Mexico oil patch town gave “improper billings and adjustments” of more than $660,000 between 2008 and 2016. Those billings may violate New Mexico’s anti-donation clause, State Auditor Tim Keller concluded, which bars local and state governments from making donations to private individuals. The audit comes after NM Political Report and the Jal Record reported last September that city officials gave a local rancher a $1.2 million discount on commercial water use between August 2012 and April of 2014. At the same time, the city raised water rates on other customers. Jal officials also continued selling industrial water to the the Beckham Ranch, Inc., for six months after a ban on industrial water sales went into effect.

NM auditor report shows large gender pay gaps, problems with state tracking

The Office of the State Auditor released a report Wednesday showing a significant gap in pay between men and women in New Mexico. According to the report, women who are employed in managerial or policy making roles in New Mexico are paid on average 26 percent less than men in the same positions in the state. The smallest gap, according to the report, is in the service industry where women are still paid about 10 percent less than men. Besides pay gaps, the report also shows the “category for manual workers of relatively high skill level” is made up of only three percent women. In addition to showing the disparity between pay for men and women in the workforce, the auditor’s report also noted that the state’s General Services Department (GSD) has a “low compliance rate” with keeping and tracking reports submitted by state vendors.

AG sues Presbyterian over millions in alleged unpaid taxes

New Mexico’s Attorney General says one of the state’s largest healthcare providers committed fraud by deliberately underpaying taxes for over a decade by falsifying Medicaid deductions and credits. Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the claim in state court in Santa Fe Tuesday, alleging that Presbyterian Health Plan, Inc. and Presbyterian Healthcare Services filed claims for tax deductions and credits related to Medicaid for above what the company qualified for between 2001 and 2015.The suit refers to Presbyterian’s actions as “systemic and deliberate.”

“When insurance providers break the rules, they must face consequences,” Balderas said in a statement released by his office. “My office is working with the State Auditor to make sure that Presbyterian—and any other companies that engaged in similar fraudulent conduct—are held responsible for the serious injuries imposed on New Mexican taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, a separate audit of premium tax collections continues, State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. In a statement to NM Political Report, a spokeswoman said Presbyterian is “confident that we have acted in good faith and with the intent to comply with our legal obligations and responsibilities” and said the company “vehemently reject[s] the allegations made today and we look forward to a positive resolution to this matter.”

“We are genuinely alarmed and surprised by the timing and nature of these allegations,” the emailed statement from Communications Manager Melanie Mozes said. “The premium taxes paid by Presbyterian Health Plan have been audited multiple times by independent firms and state agencies.

Report shows state was double-counting permanent fund money for years

An annual audit of the state’s finances found that officials had double-counted over $750 million dollars. And that’s not the first time something like this has happened. That’s the most striking finding from an audit of the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which gives a detailed picture of the state’s fiscal situation, for the fiscal year that ended in mid-2016. Auditors gave the report a “disclaimer of opinion,” which means there are significant enough problems that they cannot give a valid opinion on the report.This is the fourth consecutive year that auditors gave the CAFR a disclaimer of opinion. The report, which was due Feb.

Black and voting Democratic: Not so fast

The New Mexico electoral landscape is taking shape to the extent that early indicators are suggesting a clear change of power. Republicans have ruled the state for the majority of the last eight years. However, in these upcoming elections the New Mexico Democratic Party can potentially end the nightmare here in the Land of Enchantment that is unfolding in earnest for the rest of the nation. The question swirling throughout the Black community is, does it remain loyal to a Democratic Party that is failing to champion their interests, concerns and placing the future of all Black Americans at risk? For example, since the confirmation of the new United States attorney general, the U.S. Department of Justice has relented on a commitment to reducing and preventing excessive use of force by law enforcement, reforming the justice system and reducing the number of incarcerated Blacks.

‘Enforcement gap’ persists in NM ethics laws

Corruption has long been endemic to New Mexico government. And today, even when people ferret out potential problems or ethical lapses, there’s still a significant gap between the laws meant to protect people and the ability or willingness of state agencies to enforce them. In January, for example, conservation groups wrote to the state purchasing agent and director, asking him to look into a political donation from a company with a lucrative state contract. The company had contributed $1,000 to Gov. Susana Martinez’s political action committee during a time when the state’s Procurement Code prohibits political contributions, when proposals are being evaluated for the awarding of contracts. Months passed, and the activists didn’t hear back from the state purchasing agent or from the agency that had issued the contract, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC).

Amid investigations, UNM AD resigns

The head of the University of New Mexico Athletics is leaving as the program finds itself the subject of a special audit and under increased scrutiny thanks to fundraising and spending habits. UNM Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs announced Friday he will step down effective June 30 of this year. Krebs first began his job as athletics director in 2006. As in many states, UNM coaches of high-profile programs—football and men’s basketball—are the highest-paid state employees. Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah praised Krebs and noted that he had been trying to leave for some time.

State Auditor to legislators: state’s tax breaks require closer look

In a letter to New Mexico’s legislative leaders yesterday, State Auditor Tim Keller summarized the state’s largest tax breaks and their distribution by size. About half of the revenue that the state does not collect as a result of tax breaks comes from three sources: extractive industry tax breaks, two broad gross receipts tax breaks and the exemption of nonprofit organizations from gross receipts taxes. Tax exemptions for a range of extractive industries, such as mining and drilling, comprises 27 percent of all tax breaks and total nearly $400 million. Compiled by the Office of the State Auditor, the data came from the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Department. But finding it was not easy.

ABQ mayoral candidates face off in forum

Six Albuquerque mayoral candidates faced off Tuesday evening in one of the the first forums of the campaign and answered questions on a wide range of issues like community policing, immigration and economic development. While there were many nuanced differences in the candidates’ answers, they also agreed on a number of issues. During a “lightning round” of yes or no questions in front of an audience of 250 people, all candidates agreed that the Albuquerque Police Department wasn’t doing enough to meet the Department of Justice consent decree and that the department’s chief, Gorden Eden, should be replaced. Each candidate also said they would support relocating Syrian refugees to Albuquerque. The forum was sponsored by the community group Dukes Up Albuquerque and the two moderators were from the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report, which helped organize the event.