After a May 19 blog post
on SFReeper.com called into question some of Republican land commissioner candidate Bob Cornelius' campaign assertions, a few things happened. First: On May 24, Cornelius sent SFR a letter requesting a retraction and apology (see below). Second: We did more reporting on Cornelius' background and experience. Third: SFR shared the results of our reporting with Cornelius and asked him to respond. Here's what we found.
1) Work experience
Over the course of his campaign, Cornelius has touted his role as "a partner in a company
" called Petro Verde LLC. This from his website
"Their current project is the Petro Verde project in Clovis, where a biogas plant will be built that will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in annual revenue for the city of Clovis."
But several members of Clovis' business community who have met with Cornelius about this project say they've had no recent contact with Cornelius,
nor have they heard of any further developments since a preliminary meeting last summer.
the founder of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, says he and several other people met with Cornelius last summer about a biogas project that was in its "very beginning" stages.
"[Cornelius] hasn't done a very good job of keeping us apprised
of what's going on," Hendrick tells SFR. "I don't mean to be a critic, except I'm on the spot here, because this sounds like something we ought to be really on top of, but we're not."
Hendrick also notes that as the major economic development organization in Clovis, the CIDC
is usually involved in major ventures like Petro Verde. "We'd normally jump right in the middle of things," Hendrick says. "We don't leave very many stones unturned;
Cornelius confirmed that he'd met with the CIDC once last summer, sent a follow-up e-mail afterward, and has had no contact with the organization since then—
even though, according to his May 30 e-mail sent to SFR, "After meeting with Clovis officials, we decided to locate our business there."
Of all the people SFR interviewed to confirm they'd met with Cornelius about the Clovis biogas plant, most did remember
meeting with him last summer. An exception was former Gov. Toney Anaya, whose spokesman said he "does not recollect any such meeting," nor was it in his office's records.
Former Roswell Mayor Sam Lagrone and Chaves County Economic Development Corporation Director Robert Donnell offered recollections similar to Hendrick's: that they'd met with Cornelius last summer in Roswell but hadn't heard anything since.
Cornelius offers this explanation: "After meeting with the former Mayor and others, we determined at the time that Roswell did not meet the specifications for our company. Therefore, no further communication was needed. We are open to looking at Roswell in the future."
In his request for a retraction, Cornelius states that Petro Verde "has been active since June 2009" but has had trouble getting off the ground. In an interview, Cornelius told SFR that his job with the company is to set up meetings and seek investors, but that Petro Verde has yet to secure a single investor. SFR takes issue not with Petro Verde's lack of success, but rather with Cornelius' claim that a company as yet without investors "will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars."
In the course of reporting our first blog post, SFR called Eastern New Mexico University, where Cornelius, according to his website
, "majored in Political Science and minored in Mass Communications." ENMU told SFR Cornelius had not actually graduated. Cornelius confirmed that and offered this explanation:
I want to thank you for bringing this clerical error to my attention. Upon contacting ENMU and having them look into the matter, it was determined that I have indeed completed the necessary coursework for my degree. However, some of the clerical documentation for my graduation had not been completed. I have been in contact with both the Records Clerk and the Registrar's office at ENMU. I will be meeting with the ENMU Vice President of Academic Affairs to resolve this. I would like to point out that I have been invited to and participated in several ENMU Alumni Association events, including our 75th Anniversary Picnic. Having done so, I assumed that all the documentation was in order.
3) Court records
SFR also came across a case filing
in Moriarty magistrate court: On September 10, 2009, a "Robert Cornelius" with a 1979 birth date was charged with speeding and driving with a suspended or revoked license. SFR asked Cornelius to explain, to which he responded, via e-mail:
"Again, this is another accusatory statement by you. I have never received any documentation
in regard to the accusation you suggest in the above statement."
The last activity on the case, according to New Mexico's electronic court records system, was "Returned Mail" on January 4, 2010.
4) Nelson Spear
Texas investor Nelson Spear first alerted SFR to what he said were inconsistencies in Cornelius' campaign. Though Spear claimed to have been friends with Cornelius before confronting him about the alleged inconsistencies, Cornelius counters, in his request for a retraction, that Spear "is a surrogate of my [primary] opponent [Republican land commissioner candidate] Matt Rush."
Spear tells SFR he didn't support Rush until late April, when he says he confronted Cornelius.
"I am now publicly endorsing Matt Rush because of Bob's attitude...of not repenting of what I believe his lies are," Spear says. "But I am not a shill for Matt Rush; in fact, I have given no money to any New Mexico land commissioner candidate."
5) Loose ends
Since mid-May, SFR has repeatedly called Joey Aragon
, the registered agent for Petro Verde LLC, and Steve Stockman
, a former Texas congressman listed on the PRC filing for Petro Verde as an "organizer." Neither has returned any of SFR's messages.
SFR asked Cornelius for an address, phone number or bank account to confirm Petro Verde's status; he replied that "most of which you asked for has been provided to you already" and referred SFR to the PRC listing for Petro Verde
, which lists only an address. Outside of that—and SFR's own research—nothing has "been provided."
For our readers' reference, SFR has posted some of our correspondence with Cornelius below—his request for a retraction, as well as his subsequent responses to SFR's additional reporting.
Cornelius' responses to SFR's additional reporting: