A state commission that is tasked with promoting the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continually failed to rectify financial improprieties and inconsistencies, according to the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor.
State Auditor Brian Colón sent a letter on Monday to New Mexico Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Executive Director Leonard Waites and commission members with concerns about how the commission has handled its internal financial affairs. Colón wrote that since 2016, when Waites became executive director, Colón’s office has found “numerous findings of material weaknesses and material non-compliance” in the commission’s audit reports and that the issues were not resolved and persisted in the following years.
“Within the fiscal year 2015 and 2016 audits, the Commission’s response to each finding presented included, ‘This occurred under previous management and the current Executive Director has put procedures in place that should resolve this finding during the fiscal year 2017 audit,’” Colón wrote. “Executive Director Waites has been in the Executive Director position since August 2016, and the issues remain the same.”
In an interview with NM Political Report, Colón said his office found “red flags” in the commission’s audit reports that include purchase orders made after the date of corresponding invoices and invoices that were not properly documented.
“These are really, really red flags,” Colón said. “ And they’re not necessarily red flags for embezzlement, but they’re red flags for failure of paying attention to the financial order of the house.”
Waites did not respond to a request for comment, but he told the Albuquerque Journal that he was surprised by Colón’s claims.
Colón said the commission spends roughly a quarter of a million dollars of money allocated by the state annually, but that the issue is more than a dollar amount.
“Before you talk about that number, though, you have to talk about a principled approach to oversight,” Colón said. “And for me, it’s not the size of the transaction, it’s not the size of the agency.