Two weekends ago, the New Mexico Finance Authority ran a job posting for an internal auditor in the Santa Fe New Mexican's classified section. Notably, the ad asked that all resumés' be sent not to NMFA, but rather to a deputy secretary for the Department of Finance and Administration, which has no legal authority over NMFA.---
"That's awkward," State Senate Majority Whip Tim Keller, D-Bernalillo, who's pictured above, says. "DFA does not have say over the personnel of NMFA."
NMFA is a quasi-governmental agency that provides local governments with high-rated bonds for local infrastructure projects. Proponents point out that its public-private status allows its bonds to be traded on Wall Street, which in turn come back at low interest rates to local governments across the state.
"They're able to build roads and bridges and not get hung up in the bureaucracy of the Legislature or the [governor's] administration," Keller says of NMFA.
That public-private status also means that NMFA is only subjected to the authority of its 11-member board of directors, the majority of whom are appointed by the governor. In other words, no state agency has legal authority over NMFA.
But ever since a scandal over a faked internal audit broke last summer, different ways of reforming NMFA have surfaced. One proposal came from a 13-point memo leaked to the press and written by former DFA Deputy Secretary Dorothy "Duffy" Rodriguez which calls for significantly cutting back the agency's operations.
One of its points, for instance, would have had top NMFA staffers conduct a "complete assessment" of all NMFA employees "with view to downsizing to half the current staffing level." Another called for providing DFA with "all [NMFA] budget materials."
Keller says that the plan is "financially dangerous and very anti-jobs" and would bring the state "back to essentially the dark ages of project finance—where we were at in the '70s—where everything had to go through the Legislature and through the general obligation bond from the state."
The governor's office later downplayed the memo as "potential changes that would need to be examined much further" to the Albuquerque Journal (the governor's office didn't return SFR's phone call or email for this story).
But Keller adds that the NMFA job posting is "maybe another example of the DFA trying to run the NMFA."
He isn't the only lawmaker expressing concerns over the NMFA-DFA job posting. State Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Doña Ana, who chairs the NMFA Oversight Committee, says she would rather see NMFA hire its own internal auditor.
State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-McKinley, and vice chair of the oversight committee, adds that the post is “a little concerning.” NMFA board member Bill Fulgeniti agrees that the job posting is “strange.”
The job posting tells all interested applicants to send their resumés to DFA Deputy Secretary Ricky Bejarano.
NMFA Interim CEO John Gasparich tells SFR that Bejarano is chair of the NMFA's auditing committee and that he's collecting resumés for the position because he's a certified public accountant and is skilled in accounting. Bejarano's boss, Tom Clifford, sits on the NMFA board.
DFA spokesman Tim Korte adds that each applicant for the internal auditor position will be vetted by the auditing committee, which will then present its recommendations to the NMFA board.
"The Board will maintain full access to all applications and may accept or reject any recommendations made by the audit committee," Korte writes in an email.
Still, Bejarano is not a member of the NMFA board, which is the only body charged with authority over NMFA.
"I begin to see the erosion of the ability of NMFA to have the control and the oversight within their own entity," Papen tells SFR.
Two recent measures in the Legislature to put NMFA under state control have gone nowhere. One proposal, from state Sen. Steven Neville, R-San Juan, was at the request of the governor's office, which he says was in the name of oversight. He concedes the proposal is still premature.
"Even I wasn't sure it was a good idea," Neville tells SFR, "but we wanted to get the idea out there."
Keller's bill, which would decentralize the governor's authority over appointing NMFA board members, passed the state senate yesterday and is now before the state House of Representatives.
Gasparich, who's charged with running day-to-day operations of NMFA, says he doesn't have an opinion over how legislators reform his agency.
"That's way over my head," Gasparich says. "That's really out of my league."