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Cronyism – The Richardson Way

For the second time in less than a year, the state is being rocked by illegal payback scandals, and this time it has landed squarely on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse. KRQE’s Larry Barker ran a hard hitting segment last night that exposed the millions of dollars Governor Richardson is costing taxpayers in high paying jobs illegally created and then handed out as rewards to political cronies.

Consider the statement made about the Richardson practice by State Senator Cisco McSorley (D):

The way it works: State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque , said on camera the practice is illegal. McSorley estimated as many as 65 jobs were created by the administration in this manner. “This is not the way government should work, but unfortunately , this is the way it has worked,”McSorley said.

Yet again, New Mexicans are hearing that illegal activities by high-ranking elected officials are being described as “the way we do business in New Mexico:”

Montoya served as treasurer from 1995 to 2002. Investment adviser Peter Simons, who cooperated with the FBI in exchange for immunity, claimed Montoya told him the kickback is “the way we do business” in New Mexico.

Now that all of this has been brought to light, it remains to be seen if Attorney General Patricia Madrid, currently focused on running for Congress, will launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the Administration’s illegal practices. Madrid has been on the hot seat for allowing the corruption at the Treasurer’s office to continue unfettered for years.

So far, the Madrid camp is quiet. Maybe not surprising since current practices are similar to those that flourished and went uninvestigated by the Attorney General’s office under Patricia Madrid’s watch. Consider this:

Ed Stapleton, husband of House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque , makes $40,000 annually as a racing clerk at the state Racing Commission. The racing clerk position actually was occupied by another employee. That person got to keep her job, but she only makes $26,000 a year.

And then notice the similarities to the way the Treasurer’s office previously conducted its business:

According to a Sept. 13 search-warrant affidavit, [Michael] Montoya thought [Robert] Vigil owed him money. First Vigil offered Montoya a deputy treasurer’s job, which Montoya refused. Then in a recorded conversation on March 23, 2004, Vigil told a witness that Montoya was trying to get Vigil to hire [his wife, Samantha] Sais-Montoya . Vigil offered her a yearly salary of $47,000, but Montoya wanted $60,000, so Samantha Sais-Montoya wasn’t hired.

This was a practice that an FBI affidavit described as “engaged in a racketeer influenced and corrupt organization.” The funny thing is that even indicted Treasurer Robert Vigil, seemed to have a limit as to how much he would inflate a wage as payback. So far, Governor Richardson has given no indication that there is a problem. Quite to the contrary, “Richardson’s chief of staff defended the practice.”