September 23, 2016

State Auditor to investigate Jal water deal

Official photo of State Auditor Tim Keller

Official photo of State Auditor Tim Keller

The State Auditor’s office is looking at an arrangement where the city of Jal provided a local ranch with a large discount on water, after a report earlier this week.

The news comes after NM Political Report and The Jal Record reported on the credits that Beckham Ranch, Inc. received from the city of Jal.

“The State Auditor’s Office has opened a case to conduct fact-finding into concerns that have been raised,” Deputy Chief of Staff Justine Freeman said in a statement.

The city has been unable to produce a written record of the deal and city councilors don’t remember voting on the deal. Some don’t remember discussing the deal, while others, including the mayor, say the deal was discussed but no official decision was made.

Brad Beckham, who is listed in state business records as president, agent and one of the directors of Beckham Ranch, denied receiving credits from the city for his ranch’s water use. Instead, he stated that he simply paid what the city manager and mayor charged him for water use.

The credits came as the city raised the rate on water for industrial use from $8 per 1,000 gallons to $18 per 1,000 gallons and then $24 per 1,000 gallons. The credits, according to the city documents, meant Beckham Ranch ended up paying the $8 per 1,000 gallon rate.

State Auditor Tim Keller himself said ahead of the story’s publication that it could be illegal.

“If any local government in New Mexico gave away public resources, it would raise serious concerns for taxpayers and possibly violate our state’s constitution,” New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement.

NM Political Report partnered with The Jal Record on the investigation.