Ever wonder why we have an economic crisis in New Mexico? Sure, it has to do with the spending spree of the Richardson Administration and the rubber-stamping legislature. But, the truth is that’s only one part of the equation. Corruption and unethical conduct are undoubtedly costing the taxpayers million annually as well.
I’m not just talking about pay to play politics that have seen tens of millions in taxpayer “investment” funds gp up in smoke. I’m thinking about the low level corruption that is costing us a half million here and half a million there.
For example, let’s just look at how much the taxpayers are paying for the PRC position held by Jerome Block, Jr. The part-time job pays $90,000 per year. In addition to that $90,000, the indicted Commissioner Block was able to grab $100,000 from taxpayers to fund his campaign:
Block Jr. told the Santa Fe New Mexican he won’t resign from his $90,000-a-year job representing northern New Mexico on the powerful regulatory board.
“I’m elected, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” he was quoted as saying before closing his office door to the reporter.
The New Mexican broke the story via Twitter earlier today.
The charges stem from Block Jr.’s publicly funded campaign for office last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Block, who is in his first term on the PRC, paid a band to play at a rally that never took place. Block later had to pay a fine and return $10,000 of the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he received for his campaign after admitting to filing false reports.
So, right off the bat, we know that the indicted commissioner position costs $190,000. Of course, that’s only the start of it. You’ve got to factor in the time spent from those working for the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices:
A Complaint to the Secretary of State: On September 24, campaign finance advocacy group Common Cause issued a formal complaint to the New Mexico Secretary of State regarding Block’s apparent violations of the Voter Action Act in San Miguel county.
Attorney General Involvement: On September 27, the Attorney General stated that an investigation into Block Jr. lying about finances used in San Miguel County is on the “front burner.”
That’s got be worth at least another $150,000 when you factor in the loaded hourly rate of those involved in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of the case. Then, of course, you’ve got the taxpayer paid employees who were able to supplement their income with the taxpayer funded resources from the indicted commissioner Block’s campaign:
Just Who Ain’t on the Payroll?: On October 14, the first general election campaign finance reports for the district 3 PRC race indicated that Block Jr. payed Cordy Medina for “mailout assistance.” What’s the problem? Medina is the State Attorney General’s consitutent services coordiantor–the person who picks up the phone when citizens call to complain about, um, political candidates having suspicious payrolls.
This part-time double dipping wasn’t limited to the Attorney General’s office. PRC staff also found a way to get on the PRC campaign payroll:
Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office show Block paid [Larry L. Lujan] Lujan at least $2,000 last year for campaign coordination. Lujan has previously said he campaigned for Block solely on weekends and on his own personal time.
So, that’s another couple of grand. But, let’s not forget the telephone bills:
Lujan and Block also exchanged more than 300 phone calls on Lujan’s state cell phone during a 10-month period after Block launched his campaign.
PRC officials investigated the calls after they were reported by the Journal and determined Lujan inappropriately used his phone, though the agency didn’t disclose whether Lujan was disciplined.
Anyone want to bet that those 300 telephone calls were not restricted to weekend and personal hour times? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Which means, we’ve got:
- more lost work hours paid for by the taxpayers
- on a taxpayer paid phone
- to a campaign funded by taxpayers
- for a position which is charged to taxpayers
- which is investigated by and prosecuted by taxpayer employed staff
So, where does this leave us? Well, if you factor in Mr. Lujan’s latest promotion, we’re over $500,000 in waste.