As expected, the Public Regulation Commission removed Jerome Block as vice chairman today.
Block, who is facing allegations of car theft and improper use of state money, wasn't present in the meeting. As of May, Block had missed just over a third of the PRC's public meetings for the year. Block remains a commissioner; the state legislature can vote to impeach him.
Commissioner Ben Hall, who serves District 5, took a few issues with the unusual amount of press present to cover the Block controversies.
"Since Jan. 1, we've had over 60 meetings in this building right here," Hall told reporters at the meeting. "Never once has the press been in here to report about maybe some good news. You never do that."
Hall, who said the PRC wasn't judging Block but removing him to "get on with the business of the PRC," continued:
"[Block] has not been charged with one thing at this point. Now, there's a lot of allegations. In this country you're supposed to be presumed innocent until you're proven guilty, but the press wants to prove you're guilty first, and you've got to prove yourself innocent, and I don't appreciate that."
Hall also said that PRC chief of staff Danny Montoya has been getting threatening phone calls for his investigations into Block. Hall underlined that the commissioners ordered Montoya to take his findings to the attorney general's office.
"Somebody out here in the public seems to think [Montoya]'s got a vendetta against Chairman Block," Hall said at the meeting. "Actually, they used to be best of friends. I don't appreciate people out here in the public—and maybe it's because of the news media or whatever—crucifying somebody just because of allegations."
After the removal, the four commissioners unanimously elected Theresa Becenti-Aguilar as the PRC's new vice chair. Becenti-Aguila, a member of the Navajo Nation, was elected last year to serve District 4 after being appointed by former Gov. Bill Richardson to replace Carol Sloan. Sloan was removed from the PRC after being charged with two felonies for assaulting a woman she allegedly believed was having an affair with her husband.
Upon accepting her new role, Becenti-Aguila promised to work closely with the state's 22 Native American tribes.
"For far too long, the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apace nation, the Mescalero Apache tribe, they were not given a voice," she said at the meeting.
With that, Commissioner Jason Marks, while mentioning the context of the occasion wasn't a happy one, suggested a round-of-applause for Becenti-Aguila, which she got.