The City of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit that alleges gender pay discrimination. About 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 to create a class action lawsuit to seek redress for alleged gender pay discrimination. The original four plaintiffs filed their suit in 2018. Related: ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexandra Freedman Smith, said the pay inequity is so significant, that in some cases, the plaintiffs are alleging there is as much as a $7 an hour difference between what men are paid and what women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women are owed around $100,000 because of the pay differential.
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.
Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wayne Johnson will take over as State Auditor through the 2018 election on Friday. Martinez made the appointment a day after Tim Keller resigned from the position. Keller will be sworn in as the mayor of Albuquerque Friday after easily winning in a runoff election last month. Johnson, a Republican, is a Bernalillo County Commissioner and told the Albuquerque Journal he expects to resign from that position at some point. Johnson ran for mayor of Albuquerque as well, but did not receive enough votes to make the runoff election.
One Democratic lawmaker already says he’s planning to run to for State Auditor, now that Tim Keller won the race for Albuquerque mayor. State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, confirmed to NM Political Report Tuesday night that he plans on entering the race. If Keller had lost the race, he would have been able to run for a second term. Instead, Keller will become mayor on Dec. 1.
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.
A special audit of the city of Jal found government officials in the southeastern New Mexico oil patch town gave “improper billings and adjustments” of more than $660,000 between 2008 and 2016. Those billings may violate New Mexico’s anti-donation clause, State Auditor Tim Keller concluded, which bars local and state governments from making donations to private individuals. The audit comes after NM Political Report and the Jal Record reported last September that city officials gave a local rancher a $1.2 million discount on commercial water use between August 2012 and April of 2014. At the same time, the city raised water rates on other customers. Jal officials also continued selling industrial water to the the Beckham Ranch, Inc., for six months after a ban on industrial water sales went into effect.
An audit of the embattled Office of the Superintendent of Insurance could not offer an opinion on the fiscal health of the department because of a lack of information. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor released the most recent OSI audit. “The annual audit highlights areas throughout the agency where safeguards of public funds are not adequate or existing rules aren’t being enforced,” State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. “These are critical areas that concern the collection and administration of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars each year. They need to be addressed for the financial health of our state.
The State Auditor released its annual ‘At Risk List’ of public entities that failed to submit their mandated audits on time. Three state agencies, four counties, four school districts, one college and ten municipalities failed to submit their annual audits. One entity had an audit opinion that found “significant problems with its financial statements” per the State Auditor press release: The Town of Estancia. State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement why the list was important. “The ‘At Risk List’ helps policymakers and the public easily identify which entities are behind schedule or reporting financial information that often isn’t cutting it,” he said.
The highest-ranking official at the state Taxation and Revenue Department became somewhat reflective Tuesday over last week’s sudden resignation of his former boss, Demesia Padilla. At an annual state legislative conference hosted by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, the department’s Deputy Secretary John Monforte said he’s known Padilla for 10 years and came to the department when she was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Padilla resigned as secretary last week after an agent for Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a search warrant affidavit on her home. Monforte is now heading the department. The affidavit described an ongoing investigation that points to possible tax evasion and alleged embezzlement of money from a business she once did accounting work for, including while she was TRD secretary.
State Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla resigned from her position today, according to media reports. Padilla’s resignation came after New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a search warrant on her house related to an investigation into allegedly aiding an ex-client by using her position as TRD head. Padilla worked as a certified public accountant before Gov. Susana Martinez appointed her to the helm of TRD in 2011. Related: The key parts of the Demesia Padilla search warrant
The search warrant sought Padilla’s personal and business income tax returns from 2011-2013, among other information, stemming from an anonymous referral sent to the Attorney General’s Office in July 2015 “alleging illegal and financially questionable acts” as well as a referral from State Auditor Tim Keller. The warrant also sought tax records from Jessie Medina Jr. According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, Jessie Medina was listed as an officer of Padilla’s private accounting firm.