The state Senate voted Friday to confirm Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s five nominees to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents, an unusually fast decision that came just six days after she announced her choices. The Senate Rules Committee, which is responsible for background checks on gubernatorial nominees for high-level jobs, considered the candidacies of all five during a three-hour hearing. Then the full 42-member Senate confirmed all of them without dissent. The new regents are:
o Kimberly Sanchez Rael, whose background is in business. She will serve a six-year term.
A single, secret donor gave $150,000 to New Mexico Legacy, the group that has been buying ads and distributing mailers promoting former Gov. Susana Martinez. The New Mexican first reported on the nonprofit group’s emergence in late 2017 when it bought radio spots touting highlights of the Republican governor’s administration as she entered her final year in office. New Mexico Legacy has since heralded Martinez in glossy mailers. But who paid for this advertising is apparently a secret. New Mexico Legacy is not a political action committee.
The University of New Mexico paid out nearly $1 million to a former medical resident who accused medical school administrators of retaliating against her for reporting she was raped by a male resident. NM Political Report obtained the settlement agreement this week, nearly nine months after the case went to trial. The agreement, obtained by NM Political Report through a public records request, sheds some light on why the school settled with former University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center anesthesiology resident Cynthia Herald. But other specifics, like how much of the $800,000 settlement came from the school and how much from the state or what prompted the school to settle, remain murky at best. Herald now lives in Michigan, advocating for victims of sexual abuse and hopes to start a psychiatric residency program soon, according to her lawyer, Randi McGinn.
A flyer that reads like an election-campaign ad for Gov. Susana Martinez hit Albuquerque mailboxes this week, praising her no-new-taxes stance throughout eight years, especially during 2017’s state budget crisis. “Instead of punishing taxpayers with higher taxes, Governor Martinez has cut taxes 37 times, vetoed more than a billion dollars in tax hikes, and cut wasteful government spending. She has put our fiscal house in order the right way. Now the state has a budget surplus of $300 million,” the flyer intones. It goes on to suggest the governor’s hard anti-tax stance led to thousands of new jobs. The flyer then hammers home the message in case recipients miss the point: Governor Susana Martinez is leading New Mexico in the right direction.
The president of the University of New Mexico won’t be back after the current school year ends in May of 2017. UNM announced that Robert Frank won’t seek a second term as president of the university in a press release sent Friday afternoon, announcing his final day would be May 31, 2017, when his current contract ends. “For personal and institutional reasons, I decided that it was best to let the Regents know of my intentions. By announcing my decision now, we can gear up to move vigorously ahead to finish what we’ve started,” Frank said in a statement. “It will allow for a thoughtful, well-planned transition that will keep UNM making steady progress.
Several employees and positions at the University of New Mexico are under review for potential elimination in an effort to consolidate positions between the university’s main campus and the Health Sciences Center. At least 21 employees between main campus and HSC received letters earlier this month with “UNM and HSC Consolidation/Alignment” as the subject. The reviews come three months after a controversial change to the governance of HSC. Earlier this year, UNM’s Board of Regents voted to bring the HSC under more direct control of the regents. UNM Regent President Rob Doughty, who with Regent Marron Lee authored the changes, at the time said the governance changes wouldn’t affect employees.
An effort to apparently improve the University of New Mexico’s branding is not sitting well with many of the people who will be affected by it. A directive from UNM President Bob Frank orders a change to the domain names of the emails of more than 15,000 students, faculty and staff within the university’s Health Sciences Center by June 30. Specifically, Frank ordered the word “salud” dropped from any domain ending with “@salud.unm.edu.” Instead, all domains will end with “@unm.edu,” like much of the rest of the campus. HSC includes the university’s medical school, hospitals, nursing school and cancer center. The change comes just three months after UNM regents voted to eliminate the HSC board of directors.
Last month University of New Mexico Regent Rob Doughty shepherded to success a little-scrutinized plan to restructure the leadership and governance of the university’s Health Sciences Center. As one of the plan’s architects, Doughty also kept the plan secret — from the public, medical staff at UNM Hospital and at least two of Doughty’s fellow regents in the weeks before a March 14 vote that set the restructuring in stone. Now, the black hole of information surrounding how the plan came to be is growing murkier. New Mexico In Depth has learned that Doughty deleted emails he sent and received in the weeks leading up to the last-minute, controversial vote that changed oversight of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which has an annual budget of $1.9 billion. The change did away with a board composed of community members and regents and replaced it with a panel of three regents, who are political appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez.
A sudden overhaul in governance of the state’s largest public medical institution has left several people questioning the motivations behind the changes and its aftermath. One such skeptic is Mel Eaves, a now-former community member of the board of directors that made recommendations on the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. HSC operates the university’s medical school, nursing school, two hospitals and the cancer center. This piece also appears in the March 23 edition of the ABQ Free Press. To Eaves, the motivation for the overhaul stems from other entities wanting a piece of HSC’s $220 million sitting in reserves, earmarked in part for the construction of a new hospital to replace the campus’s current adult hospital, which was built in the 1950s.
University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents will next week consider dissolving the board that governs its Health Sciences Center in what will likely be a contentious hearing. Update: On Monday, the Board of Regents voted 4-2 to proceed with the takeover. The story continues as originally written below. Currently, the Health Sciences Center (HSC), which includes University of New Mexico Hospital, the state’s largest hospital, is governed by a board of directors separate from the university’s Board of Regents. Previously, the Health Sciences Center was governed by a committee of the Board of Regents. The proposal also adds the “executive vice president” title to the HSC Chancellor and subjects much of that position’s authority to the UNM president.