Payout of $453,000 to failed president likely to bring reform legislation
The coverup at New Mexico State University will return to front pages once the general election is over next month.
NMSU's regents this fall authorized a $453,000 payoff to former school president Barbara Couture, but offered no explanation to the taxpaying public. The chairman of the regents, Mike Cheney, right, can only show Aggie pride if he swallows his own and tells people the truth about his board and Couture.
This is unlikely without pressure from the Legislature. But on this issue, state lawmakers are an angry group.
Couture, 64, already is working as a senior adviser for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a title befitting her bureaucratic, hushed-up, malodorous removal from power at NMSU.
State Rep. Bill Rehm in the last two years introduced bills targeting cases such as Couture's.
His legislation would have prohibited the award of "a golden parachute or other extraordinary benefit to a public employee who resigns or is terminated for cause."
Rehm, R-Albuquerque, saw both of his bills die quiet deaths. He is running for re-election next month against Democrat Joanne J. Allen. Win or lose, Rehm knows that somebody will bring forth another bill aimed at stopping breaches of trust such as the one involving NMSU, Couture and the public they battered financially.
Questions for the regents persist, but like weasels in the desert they have burrowed for cover.
Taxpayers and lawmakers want to know what Couture did wrong that led to her ouster after less than three years on the job.
They want to know why the regents paid her to go away, given the implication that her job performance was inadequate.
And they want to know if the regents violated open-meeting laws with this foul deal.
Clear already is that the regents chose poorly when they hired Couture.
Couture got last laugh, $453,000
Equally apparent is that Govs. Susana Martinez, Bill Richardson and Gary Johnson made bad appointments to the board of regents.
The time is right for a housecleaning at NMSU. Legislators have a 60-day session in 2013. That is ample time for them to cleanse NMSU with sunshine, the best disinfectant.