For contracts, New Mexico increasingly looks elsewhere: Analysis finds growing reliance on out-of-state vendors

Billions of taxpayer dollars have flowed out of state since 2013 due to government purchases that are not filled — or cannot be filled — by New Mexico companies, a Searchlight New Mexico analysis finds. Over the past five years, 43 cents of every dollar the state paid companies and consultants went outside New Mexico’s borders, according to Searchlight’s analysis. That price tag stands at $3.2 billion and is growing. According to the state’s own data, spending on outside vendors grew faster than spending on in-state vendors over the past five years of Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration. That dynamic is unlikely to change without a significant overhaul of the state’s economy, according to several experts interviewed for this article.

State law encourages secret payouts

Before Cynthia Herald left the Bernalillo County courthouse last November she told reporters that she was relieved to finally gain closure on an ordeal with the University of New Mexico that lasted more than half a decade. Herald sued the university’s medical school, claiming she was wrongfully dismissed from a residency program and settled before closing arguments. The terms of the settlement were, by state law, temporarily shielded from public scrutiny. That meant the public couldn’t see the total amount UNM agreed to pay, including how much money was to come from the medical school’s anesthesiology department and how much from the state’s Risk Management Division. Seven months later, the University still won’t release that information and cites the same law.

Bill would nix lottery scholarship mandate

State law requires the New Mexico Lottery to allocate 30 percent of its gross revenues for college scholarships, a program that helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year. So effective was this system that it funneled more than $40 million annually to the scholarship program for nine consecutive years, helping many students obtain a college degree without the crushing debt that can come with loans. But lottery revenues dipped in 2017, a fact that figures heavily in another attempt to change the law. A Republican lawmaker has revived an annual bill to eliminate the requirement of pledging 30 percent of gross lottery revenues to college scholarships. House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, proposes that at least $38 million in net revenue go to the scholarship program.

Oil and gas lobbyists shell out big money in campaign donations

Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.

Special audit finds ‘tangled web,’ problems at UNM Athletics

A special audit of the University of New Mexico Athletics Department found a variety of problems dating back years. According to the Office of the State Auditor,  responsibility ultimately lands in the lap of the university’s Board of Regents, which is supposed to ensure the university, including the athletics program, is fiscally responsible. Auditors found in many cases the UNM Athletics program fell short of that goal. The problems include “a tangled web of transactions” according to State Auditor Tim Keller. At the center of many of the findings are two non-profits that aid the athletics department in fundraising, the UNM Foundation and the UNM Lobo Club.

Email shows UNM AD asked Guv’s political adviser about coaching search

A recently released email showed that former University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs asked Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser for advice about the search for the university’s new men’s basketball coach. An Albuquerque Journal reporter received the email through a public records request that also revealed information on other athletic department issues, including a controversial Scotland golf trip where the university paid for donors’ expenses. The revelation came after the Journal reported political influence in Santa Fe was part of the search for a new Lobos basketball coach. The coaching job is perhaps the most prominent state position, and is always among the most highly-paid. A Journal reporter asked Krebs via email, “Are you making this hire?

Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials

Plutonium capable of being used in a nuclear weapon, conventional explosives, and highly toxic chemicals have been improperly packaged or shipped by nuclear weapons contractors at least 25 times in the past five years, according to government documents. While the materials were not ultimately lost, the documents reveal repeated instances in which hazardous substances vital to making nuclear bombs and their components were mislabeled before shipment. That means those transporting and receiving them were not warned of the safety risks and did not take required precautions to protect themselves or the public, the reports say. The risks were discovered after regulators conducted inspections during transit, when the packages were opened at their destinations, during scientific analysis after the items were removed from packaging, or — in the worst cases — after releases of radioactive contaminants by unwary recipients, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation showed. Only a few, slight penalties appear to have been imposed for these mistakes.

Boyd: Risks grew worse after Roe v. Wade

Though Dr. Curtis Boyd spent five years before Roe v. Wade risking time in jail and his medical license by performing abortions, he says things got worse after the landmark ruling legalizing abortion across the country. At first, he says the anti-abortion movement wasn’t given much credence. But he points to the election of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party’s embrace of a stance against abortion access as a turning point. During the 1980s, Boyd says protesters often swarmed his car to block his exit from the clinic parking lot. His staff, eyewitnesses to the protests, would call the cops to intervene.

UNM announces new fiscal oversight on athletics

Amid scandals, University of New Mexico’s president announced a shakeup in fiscal oversight at the athletics department. Associate Vice President for Institutional Support Services Chris Vallejos will be tasked with evaluating and improving financial management of the department. He will work with Janice Ruggiero, the acting director of Intercollegiate Athletics, in the initiative.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The state’s best environmental coverage. [/perfectpullquote]Interim UNM President Chaouki Abdallah made the announcements Monday. It appears there may be financial irregularities related to the purchase of suites at The Pit, the basketball arena now known as Dreamstyle Arena.

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.