Thursday, February 12, 2009

ABQ Mayor Contenders Line Up Early Support, Plus: That Red Hot UNM Beat, And: Top Lawyer Weighs In On Fed Pay-To-Play Case 

Let's kick it off with some chatter about the ABQ race for mayor. ABQ City Councilor and mayoral candidate Debbie O'Malley has picked up the support of former NM Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham. Michelle lost the ABQ Dem congressional nomination last year to Martin Heinrich. Also helping the campaign of O'Malley is Javier Benavidez. That's notable because Benavidez now works in constituent services for Rep. Heinrich and has long ties to the city's progressive community. His support of O'Malley is an indicator of how the liberal vote is being split between O'Malley and former State Senator Richard Romero. Richard has won the backing of state Senator Eric Griego who was the leading liberal candidate in the 2005 mayoral race. Also in the Romero camp is state Senator Tim Keller, an up and comer for the progressives and NM Sec. of Education Veronica Garcia. Debbie has also won the backing of Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta.

As for Mayor Chavez, insiders continue to speculate that he wouldn't mind getting a job with the Obama administration and maybe has even made a few inquiries in D.C., but his insiders tell me all systems are go for another run. City Councilor Michael Cadigan is also seeking the mayor's chair. Michael is a two-term Westside lawmaker.

Bruce Malott
It hasn't been easy time for longtime NM CPA Bruce Malott. As president of the Educational Retirement Board, he has been accused of playing politics with ERB investments by whistleblower Frank Foy who has filed a civil lawsuit. It has also been reported that Malott's accounting firm--Meyners + Company--has raked in a lot of state biz since Big Bill became Governor. Malott was treasurer for Bill's guv campaign. A friend of Malott's says his integrity has taken an unfair hit:

...It was Malott's firm that reported to the FBI what ultimately became "MannyGate."...His accounting team gained access to books that turned out to be the smoking gun (in the corruption case against former state Senate President Manny Aragon). And it was Malott's firm that walked away in mid-contract from the Region Three Housing Authority when they sought to have his accounting firm soft-pedal legal breaches.

Some have tried to paint Malott as a partisan, but it's worth noting that he was originally appointed to the ERB by Republican Gov. Gary Johnson...S
ometimes when you see smoke, it's accompanied by mirrors rather than fire.

How about that. Bruce? They're saying nice things about you and you're not even dead yet.


Below the university level, the public school system remains a source of continued frustration. After billions spent and decades of "reform," could New Mexico's public education problem come down to this summary from Moises Venegas, executive director of Quinto Sol, a community development and research organization.

...The problem is not the size of the school; the formula for more money; choice for charter schools; or the creation of new school districts. The problem is inadequate attention paid to educating the Mexican/Hispanic; Indian, black or poor student. Every student should be receiving a rigorous curriculum and educators should be making the same demands and have the same expectations for this student population. Do we have the political will to educate students regardless of family and community?

Well said, but other argue it is an income issue, not necessarily an ethnic issue. Of course, it is often difficult to separate the two.


Readers have been chipping in on the subject of the compensation of University of New Mexico President David Schmidly--$587,000 annually and sure to be a topic when UNM Regent Jamie Koch appears for his state Senate confirmation hearing. Here's a comparison one Alligator came with:

Iowa's President is paid exactly the same as Schmidly. It seems to me far too much, especially in light of the US President's newly announced policy about executive compensation. But that's the market. In any case, Schmidly is not "underpaid," unless he thinks he should be paid as much as Presidents at UT Austin and University of Washington. Culling data from other institutions, I note the following Presidential salaries (including deferred compensation) at peers and not-so-peers:

U. of Colorado at Boulder $412K; U. of Arizona $550K; U. of Oklahoma at Norman $550K; U. of Oregon $564K; U. of Utah $415K; U. of Nebraska at Lincoln $325K; U. of Texas at Austin $626K; U. of Washington $887K.


A UNM faculty member took time to comment on the assertion by UNM Regent Jamie Koch that the average faculty salary at the state's largest university is $94,000.

He claims that UNM faculty are paid, on average, $94,000 a year while only working a contractually obligated 189 days a year. This is both incorrect and misleading. According to the most recent edition of the UNM Fact Book, faculty at UNM earn an average salary of $76,112. This average salary is 9.8% below the salaries paid at UNM’s peer institutions (mainly public universities in the Southwest).


Legal Beagles on the federal beat say it's not that unusual for several grand juries to hear federal corruption cases, contrary to what some of our legal insiders implied on Monday's blog. They questioned why the original grand jury hearing evidence in the alleged pay to play scheme in Big Bill's administration did not have its term extended. Why seat a new grand jury? Was that a sign the case was weak? Longtime ABQ defense lawyer Ray Twohig weighs in:

When the prosecutors believe they have an indictable case, they usually have the agent on the case simply testify before whatever grand jury is currently sitting and present the indictment to be returned by that grand jury. Thus, all of the speculation surrounding delays, multiple grand juries, etc., is basically meaningless...When the prosecutors are ready to try the case, it will be indicted. That generally means when they have made all their deals to turn the participants they have chosen as prosecution witnesses and signed plea agreements with them....

We get that, Ray, but we still find the issue of how long it should take a compelling question. There is no checks and balances on that. And "when the prosecutors are ready" doesn't answer it.

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