Scandal over phony audit does not displace veteran member
A fraudulent audit that engulfed the New Mexico Finance Authority in scandal did not stop board member Blake Curtis from being reappointed Monday.
The state Senate confirmed him on a 36-0 vote without any debate.
Curtis, 54, right, runs a family agriculture business in Clovis and has a long history of public service, having been a Republican state representative for 10 years and later a regent of New Mexico State University.
The Senate also confirmed Nann Winter, 53, as chairwoman of the finance authority board.
An attorney from Albuquerque, Winter took over as leader of the board four days after the scandal broke. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed her to stabilize the finance authority’s leadership.
The nomination of Winter, below, cleared the Senate 34-3. Democrats Timothy Keller, Michael Sanchez and Jacob Candelaria voted against her.
Keller said he was concerned about Winter’s law firm doing business with the state Department of Transportation, whose public projects are tied to the finance authority.
Curtis originally was appointed to the finance authority board by Martinez in May 2011. The phony audit was detected in July 2012.
During a hearing of the Rules Committee, Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, questioned Curtis about why internal controls were so lax.
Curtis said the fact that the audit was late should have been a signal to the board that the work needed to be scrutinized, but that did not happen.
He told the committee that communications had since improved between the board and the state auditor, as well as private auditors employed by the finance authority.
Clemente Sanchez said standard procedures were skirted that would have detected the deception and stopped the fake audit from being released.
“It just amazes me that the audit committee did not have an exit conference,” Sanchez said.
Greg Campbell, former controller of the finance authority, admitted to faking the audit report.
Campbell pleaded guilty to three felonies in November and was sentenced to probation. His motives for rigging the audit remain unclear. Neither Campbell nor anybody else stole any money from the authority.
Even so, state Auditor Hector Balderas said investigating the audit scandal cost $1.1 million. It also curtailed the finance authority from loaning money to government entities for the construction of roads, schools and other public projects.
Sanchez asked Winter about the board’s decision to fire Rick May as chief executive officer of the finance authority.
She said problem in May’s administration was “one of complacency.”
Winter told the committee the finance authority had righted itself and was almost ready to borrow and lend again. She told the committee its normal operations should resume between April and June.
Her appointment to chair the agency runs through Jan. 1, 2017. Curtis’ reappointment lasts until Jan. 1, 2016.