Thursday, February 26, 2009

UNM Faculty Votes No-Confidence In Koch & Co.; Guv Stands By His Man; State Awaits Senate's Say, Plus: How To Get And Keep A State Government Job 

Jamie Koch (Lobo)
Will a sometimes brutal and very public critique by the University of New Mexico faculty of UNM Regents Chairman Jamie Koch jeopardize his confirmation in the state Senate for another six year term? That was the key question in the wake of a Wednesday faculty no-confidence vote taken of Koch, UNM President David Schmidly and Executive Vice-President David Harris. Results of the vote will be released today, but no one is expecting Koch to escape a negative judgment; he is clearly the emotional focal point of the dissension embroiling the state's largest university.

(Thursday morning the results were announced, UNM faculty overwhelming approved no-confidence votes against President David Schmidly, regents President Jamie Koch and Executive Vice President David Harris.

Voting no-confidence in Schmidly were 329 out of 487 faculty. The vote on Harris was 438 to 24, with 26 abstaining. The no-confidence vote on Koch was approved by an even larger margin, 482 to 7, with 3 abstaining. The vote has no legal power, but does carry political impact. The entire two and one half hour meeting was Webcast and can be seen here.)

Governor Richardson, who appointed Koch, a former chair of the NM Dem Party, made his first public statement on the UNM imbroglio. Even before the faculty forum had ended, he fired off a news release saying the administration will not back down and will "move forward" with the Koch nomination.

"I am moving forward with my reappointment of Chairman Jamie Koch to a second term on the Board of Regents. Under Chairman Koch’s leadership, the regents have made a tremendous amount of progress during the past six years, and they have my full support as they navigate through these tough financial times.” said Richardson.

But another six years? Richardson may be able to win approval of Koch in the Senate, but he has a rebellion on his hand that is unlikely to be quelled by a successful confirmation. The crisis of confidence in the university leadership is being traced back to the Governor and his appointment not only of Koch, but of one of the most political board of regents in history. He also takes hits for the placement of longtime politico David Harris at the top of the school's leadership pyramid.


The populist mood of the electorate was reflected at the faculty meeting at Popejoy Hall as faculty members called for an outside audit of the school while scoring Schmidly for bloated administration salaries and misdirected spending. Koch attended, but did not speak. Earlier this month, critical comments he made of the faculty escalated the confrontation and sent the dispute onto the statewide stage.

Schmidly adopted a conciliatory tone at Popejoy Wednesday and several professors spoke against the no-confidence resolution, but the quote that stood out was Schmidly's own analysis of his future at UNM: "I am not going anywhere," He declared.

Time will tell whether those are famous last words or the beginning of the end of this searing political battle.


Reports said about 500 faculty members voted. By historical standards that is heavy faculty involvement. There has been spin that the discontent is confined to select faculty, but Wednesday's meeting belies that notion. Only certain faculty were eligible to vote, but over 900 faculty and interested citizens turned out.

Sen. Lopez & Big Bill
Still no date for the Koch confirmation hearing before the eight member state Senate Rules Committee headed up by ABQ Dem Senator Linda Lopez. But Lopez has pledged to conduct one and insiders speculate that she could ultimately cast a vote against Koch. Her relationship with the Governor being one reason.

The Koch confirmation may be opposed by most if not all Republicans, according to several analysts. Rules is expected to send it to the floor, but whether it will be with or without a recommendation for approval remains an open question. On the floor, if all 15 R's voted against Koch, seven Dems would have to join with them to deny the Santa Fe businessman his second term. We're told a representative of Chairwoman Lopez attended the Popejoy session.

Koch has raised significant money for state Dems and is a familiar presence at the Roundhouse and major Dem events. As we have pointed out before, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is the brother of Regent and former NM House Speaker Raymond Sanchez. That relationship alone demonstrates the incestuous political ties that have entangled UNM.

One suspects that even if the Senate approves Koch, the climax of this affair is yet to come. No one can imagine six long years of Koch fighting with the faculty or Schmidly continuing to operate without widespread campus support. It will soon be in the hands of our Senators on whether they want to let this passion play continue and hope it will spend itself, or act now to avoid what could be a train wreck later.


A rare misinterpretation of some info led one of our Senior Alligators (what we call our very reliable sources) astray. We blogged for a short time Wednesday that UNM Health Sciences VP Paul Roth had told his faculty, which includes medical doctors, not to attend the faculty meeting. His office said that is not the case and added that he was not made a VP by President Schmidly, as our Gator said, but by UNM President Caldera. So how could a Senior Alligator get snared? Well, he was on the right track. We received several e-mails explaining that Roth has been trying to keep HSC out of the main campus controversy over Schmidly. For example:

The overall strategy north of Lomas is to insulate HSC from this whole budget cum administration crisis; after all, unlike the UNM Provost, Roth controls both his administration and the budget for it. So isolationism is a good strategy.

Thanks to those who e-mailed on this. The Senior Alligator remains in good standing. He had the gist of it down, but was himself led astray by his own senior sources.


If southern NM Dem Congressman Harry Teague is going to avoid a 2010 conservative challenge by either a Dem or a significant R, he is going to need more cover like this from the GOP oriented USA Chamber of Commerce:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Congressman Harry Teague (D-NM) for backing the recently-passed economic recovery plan, a major first step toward igniting consumption and investment, creating jobs and jump starting New Mexico’s economy.


Now we take you deep, very deep into the bowels of state government. I've read this thing from our anonymous analyst three times and am still not sure how it works. Read on..

How it is that some state employees know how to shuffle themselves around--or shuffle others around (called being “detailed”)—so that those who hold some modicum of power can manipulate “safe” positions for themselves (or their cronies) so they won’t be out of work once an administration changes hands? It happens all the time….

They will say, let’s keep Joe in job X on paper and “detail” him to some other position. In the meantime, Maria will do both her job and Joe’s old job. Joe will hold on to his position (his position on paper) until he retires. Once he retires we can put "Higher Ranking Employee" (who is exempt and serves at pleasure of….) in Joe’s old job and then HRE is “safe” once the administration changes hands. Maria is just used by those in power to manipulate the system and save the spot for someone in power.

That's the kind of stuff that reminds us we remain a humble student of the ancient ways of the Movida and La Politica.

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