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Rebecca Vigil-Giron and the Never-Ending Audit

Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who incidentally remains on the taxpayer funded payroll, is back in the news again (subscription):

Lingering questions involving the expenditure of nearly $6.3 million for a voter education campaign by Vigil-Giron in 2004 and 2006 continues to impact the current administration, the state audit found.

“I’m still extremely concerned,” Balderas told the Journal on Tuesday. “The overall fiscal management was called into question and our auditors were just not confident enough to give them a clean bill of health.”

So, here’s the first thing that is bugging me. We’re in 2009, and we’re still auditing $6.3 million that was expended beginning five years ago? Does that seem like it’s taking a long time, or what?

Of course, the state isn’t the only one who reviewed the books. The federal government conducted an audit and guess what they found?

A separate federal audit released last year couldn’t account for more than $3 million of the $6.3 million paid by Vigil-Giron to media consulting firm A. Gutierrez and Associates.

Vigil-Giron’s agency apparently made upfront payments to the consultant and didn’t require detailed receipts for the work done.

Nice. I’m in advertising, and I can’t imagine not having to account for half the money – to the tune of $3 million – I was given by a client for a media buy. Every time you place an ad in the media, you receive proof of performance (i.e. a notarized copy of the ads’ air times, or in the case of a print, a copy of the actual printed ad). The only reason that documentation of proof of performance could not be provided is because the ad didn’t run.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has said that some of the money might have to be reimbursed by the state.

Herrera said Tuesday that her office has proposed a measure to “release” taxpayers from having to repay the $6.3 million to the federal government.

“We are hopeful that the Legislature passes this bill,” the statement said. “New Mexicans should be protected.”

Oh that’s just priceless. Someone please call up the Secretary of State office and explain where the government gets their money to our current Secretary of State Mary Herrera. Let her know that regardless of what bill the Legislature passes, it is taxpayers’ money that will be used to satisfy that debt.

Among its findings, the state audit determined Vigil-Giron’s office inappropriately used nearly $30,000 in federal voter education funds to enhance the agency’s Web site.

Balderas said enhancing a Web site was “clearly not central to the HAVA (Help America Vote Act) mission.”

Now, wait a minute. Something here just doesn’t make sense. Vigil-Giron’s office claims to have enhanced the agency website. Please, let’s get real. Oh, and I think those auditors need to go back and review their work. As I recall, that $30,000 doesn’t even come close to the amount that was spent on a worthless website:

That’s right Ms. Vigil-Giron has had three years to get this system up and running without success. As our Secretary of State describes it, the problem is two-fold 1) the contractor has failed to meet the deadlines; and 2) there just wasn’t enough money allocated. Of course, number two rings a little false when you realize that Vigil-Giron spent $2 million in 2004 on self-promoting television ads.

So, what has Ms. Vigil-Giron done about the contractor’s failure to deliver? Has she demanded a refund? No. Has she sent a letter to the contractor demanding that they stop listing New Mexico as one of the “jurisdictions using SOSKB?” No. Has she gone to the Attorney General and asked Patricia Madrid to file suit against this company to get back our taxpayer dollars? No. So, what has she done?

Using federal dollars earmarked for voter education, Vigil-Giron’s office only last month signed a new $350,000 contract for completion of the system with the same North Carolina company she hired to do the job in 2003.

You read that correctly. Vigil-Giron’s office has given the company another contract for $230,000 more than the first contract. Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts? Then again, maybe she is rewarding the company for failing to deliver a fully operational system. See, that actually makes sense. The company’s failure to deliver has allowed Governor Richardson’s representative the opportunity to say:

“It’s a shame there are problems,” Amanda Cooper, Richardson’s campaign manager, said of the state’s electronic filing program. “We want to file our campaign finance records in a way that people can search them.”

Um, yeah… hindsight really is 20/20. I’m sure the Governor was just so upset that people were unable to search campaign finance records. Just think, if those campaign finance records had been searchable, the CDR scandal might have broke before he had a chance to run for President.

In fact, the Governor was so distraught (wink,wink, nudge, nudge) that he gave Ms. Vigil-Giron another taxpayer funded job. And, Governor Richardson’s rationale at the time for making sure that this individual, mired in scandal, had another taxpayer funded position:

Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she “has served the state, she’s been an elected official, she’s contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

I’d say she has contributed. Contributed to our debt. As to deserving to stay in state government, well, I guess she does deserve it… about as much Manny Aragon and Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil deserved to stay in state government.

I guess that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to other news. It looks like not all hiring freezes are created equal (subscription):

Three months ago, Gov. Bill Richardson froze pay increases and hiring at the departments and other agencies under his control as a means to help address the state’s budget problems.

But there have been exceptions, both in hires and pay increases.

Richardson has made 16 appointments to exempt positions since the hiring and pay freeze took effect Nov. 15, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Finance and Administration.

Those appointees are exempt from the protections of the classified employee system and serve at the pleasure of the governor.

The appointees include Geno Zamora, hired as a lawyer for the Economic Development Department at an annual salary of $87,000. He worked in the Governor’s Office before making an unsuccessful bid for attorney general in 2006.

Other appointees include a new head for the Game and Fish Department, a division director at the Department of Cultural Affairs, a lawyer at the Department of Workforce Solutions and an administrator for Miners’ Colfax Medical Center in Raton.

Hold the presses. What’s that say in that last line? “A lawyer at the Department of Workforce Solutions” was among those hired. What is it about that gives me pause? Hmmm. Oh, I know:

Vigil-Giron, who now works for the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions, dismissed the new state audit as politically motivated.

The Department of Workforce Soultions puts an attorney on the payroll. Rebecca Vigil-Giron works at the Department of Workforce Solutions. I’m sure it’s all just some bizarre coincidence.