April 3, 2017

Audit finds likely theft, other problems at Northern New Mexico College

An audit released Monday revealed serious problems at Northern New Mexico College, including probable theft of $200,000.

State Auditor Tim Keller said the likely theft by the college’s former director of financial services was among 37 findings in an independent audit of the Española college. Since the college didn’t have enough documentation for the audit to reliably score the school’s finances, the audit received a “disclaimer of opinion,” which is negative.

In addition to theft, the audit found “excessive” honorariums paid to the former president, “a general lack of controls over accounting practices, cash handling and capital asset,” and a lack of required code of ethics and/or conduct that all employees would sign.

The audit was for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2016.

“Addressing the problems identified in the audit is critical to keeping the College’s limited resources with students where they belong,” Keller said in a statement. “The audit provides a roadmap for the College’s new leadership to get a handle on financial practices and implement policies to protect public funds. We appreciate the College’s cooperation during the audit process.”

NNMC president Richard J. Bailey Jr. told NM Political Report the thorough audit was accurate and necessary. He described it as a “road map to fixing everything.”

“The audit was very thorough and this is something not only because of the ongoing investigation of alleged wrongdoing, but actually this is something that I asked for as new president and we asked for as an institution,” he said.

He said some of the findings were “very, very specific” about “isolated” incidents, but that other findings were “more systemic and will take a lot more energy” to fix.

This isn’t the first time the college found itself in trouble over money issues.

NNMC settled two whistleblower lawsuits in 2016 alleging retaliation for uncovering waste and fraud at the college. As part of the settlement, the college did not have to admit to any wrongdoing.

The U.S. Department of Education put NNMC on a watchlist, along with over 500 other colleges and universities, over late audits for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

Update: Added quotes from NNMC President Richard J. Bailey Jr.