Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sources: Deal Cut With Manny; Will Leave Highlands U With Big Payday; Educator Manuel Pacheco Tapped As Interim School Prez 

Manuel Pacheco
The brief and tumultuous Manny Aragon era at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas will come to an end as soon as this week with the former state senate powerhouse receiving a hefty contract buyout and former University of Missouri President and Highlands graduate Manuel T. Pacheco being named interim president of the school. That's the word from top sources tracking the action for "NM Politics with Joe Monahan" who were reporting in even as the latest legal action regarding Aragon and his battle with the Highlands regents played out at the State Supreme Court.

"The public may not like the big check he will get, but he has come to an agreement with the regents. This avoids further legal wrangling and sets the stage for Pacheco to come in and calm things down. A search for a permanent president will then get underway," reported a top Alligator with a record for accuracy.

Aragon, a longtime champion of improving education for Hispanic youth, was overjoyed when he was named President of the school in a move widely believed to have been engineered by Governor Big Bill, but he ran into trouble when he moved to get rid of several professors. Later, questions arose about Manny's handling of his "President's Fund" as well as building contracts awarded by the school.

But Aragon has not been charged with any wrongdoing. In fact, when the regents moved against him hundreds of students rallied in support of the Dem political giant who has ensured his place in state history through a nearly 30 year legislative career, widely considered to be unparalleled and a template for future leaders in the gathering and exercise of New Mexican political power.

Overshadowing the controversy at the campus has been a federal investigation into the construction of two Bernalillo county courthouses and the metro jail. Aragon's name has surfaced in connection with that probe and speculation has mounted that the regents, despite their denials, were feeling pressure to get rid of Aragon fearing that he could be indicted by the feds.


Highlands U
Pacheco has a distinguished resume, having led several major universties and retiring as chief of the University of Missouri four campus system in 2003. The 65 year old also has corporate contacts. He serves on the board of directors of Public Service Company of New Mexico. He began his career teaching Spanish in the schools of Northern New Mexico before going on to lead the University of Arizona as well as the University of Houston. In 1962, he received an undergraduate degree in languages from Highlands. He received a Ph.D in foreign language education from Ohio State. The PNM Web site lists him as a resident of Phoenix. A Pacheco son is a Santa Fe medical doctor.

When Pacheco left the University of Missouri a scholarship was set up in his name with this description:

"To honor an academic administrator who exemplifies outstanding academic leadership at the University of Missouri. Former University of Missouri President Manuel T. Pacheco was recognized as a leader who exhibited humility and respect for others, and worked diligently to develop leaders around him. Candidates should exemplify these traits."

As for Manny, students supporting him claim the regents earlier offered him a buyout of $250,000. Regents denied that. Whatever the case, our sources say money is coming and Manny is going. We blogged last week that his name has circulated as a possible to head the National Hispanic Cultural Center in ABQ. If the future is less rosy and the Feds enter the picture, attorney Aragon will be financially well-armed, not to mention intellectually.

Manny Aragon has had a storied run in the annals of La Politica. For him to go quietly into the night would be the ultimate oxymoron.

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