Well, it looks like just another typical news day in the Land of Enchantment. Let’s see, we’ve got a report that one former State Senator has entered prison for his part robbing New Mexicans of $4.2 million:
Former state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon has begun serving his 67-month prison term in Colorado.
Then, we’ve got an indictment that has been two years in the making of the former executive director of Region III Housing Authority with ties to current House Speaker Ben Lujan:
In 2003 and 2004, State Investment Council bought $5 million in bonds issued by the authority to finance its mission to buy and renovate homes that are sold to low-income buyers.Money from home sales was used by the housing authority to pay operational expenses including $875,000 that went to Gallegos as salary, retirement benefits and a loan.The bonds defaulted, and the State Investment Council estimated losses to taxpayers at around $4 million.Public investigations found, among other things:
- In sales of 40 properties, the money received from buyers wasn’t used to pay off the bonds.
- The authority withdrew bond money to purchase five properties it already owned.
- The authority withdrew $880,000 to purchase 16 properties but paid only $280,000 for them.A series of reports by the Journal’s Thomas J. Cole also found that the housing authority allowed a state judge and an aide to House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, to live rent free in authority homes.
And, to round out the headlines, it looks like the results of the investigation into Governor Richardson and his inner circle has arrived on the desk of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:
The New Mexico Finance Authority has been part of the federal investigation after awarding a hefty contract — with questionable procedures that included adding points and changing the initial rankings — to California-based CDR Financial Inc.CDR, which also was awarded a sole-source, no-bid escrow contract, contributed about $100,000 to Richardson’s political committees around the time of the contract awards.The contract award in 2004 was for CDR to advise the Finance Authority on the state $1.6 billion GRIP transportation bond program.Among the former Finance Authority officials interviewed by the FBI is former NMFA Executive Director David Harris.After CDR won the New Mexico business in 2004, CDR officials paid for dinner and Lakers basketball tickets in Los Angeles for Harris and former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino.Richardson has said no one from his administration acted improperly.
Of course, the Governor would say no one has acted improperly. This is New Mexico. As it has been noted, it’s just “the way we do business.” Although, I, for one, am hoping the voters have just about had enough.