Insurance superintendent deserves the gate, not another term
Doublespeak occurs every waking hour at the state Capitol.
But it is rare to meet a bumptious bureaucrat such as John Franchini, who is an outright liar.
Franchini regulates the state insurance industry. He will remain under the supervision of the Public Regulation Commission for a few more days. Then he hopes a separate state committee will hire him to continue as superintendent of the insurance department as it becomes a stand-alone agency on July 1.
Franchini, 67, is the sort of government hanger-on who makes you sad that even a small portion of your taxes go toward paying his $101,000-a-year salary. The hiring committee asked him about his experience and he rambled. Every question brought another torturous response from Franchini, but not a one of the nine committee members had the gumption to jump in to try to pin down the good ole boy.
We do not need people in government jobs who refuse to give direct answers to straightforward questions. But if Franchini were just a harmless blowhard, he would not be worth mentioning.
The fact that he lied to his bosses about a secretive attempt to raise his salary and those of his cronies is our real concern.
Back in May, Public Regulation Commissioner Patrick Lyons discovered budget documents showing that a select few in Franchini's department were going to submit large salary increases for themselves.
Franchini's salary was to jump by $19,000 under the plan. His deputy, Jolene Gonzales, was listed for a $6,000 raise that would have elevated her salary to $90,000 a year. Lyons said all the planned raises were in Gonzales' handwriting, but that Franchini was in on it.
Lyons, R-Clovis, proved to be a good guardian of taxpayers' money. During a public meeting, Lyons confronted Franchini and Gonzales about the raises.
Gonzales tried a bureaucratic response worthy of Franchini, but Lyons would have none of it.
"You're not going to talk your way out of this one," Lyons told her.
Franchini claimed ignorance.
"I was surprised. I didn't know anything about it, and I'm stopping it," Franchini said of the pay raise plan.
Lyons said Franchini knew everything about the planned raises, and that he thought he could slip them through as the insurance division spun off from the PRC to stand-alone status.
Jason Marks is a member of the state committee that will decide Wednesday whether to retain Franchini or hire somebody else as insurance superintendent. Marks asked Franchini whether he was such a hands-off administrator that the pay raise plan had been done without his knowledge.
To most everyone's surprise, Franchini then said he knew about the raises and that they were a good idea because his
people were "immorally" underpaid, especially in comparison to others in the Public Regulation Commission.
of course, was in direct contradiction to Franchini's initial
explanation, when he said he had been away for a few
days and out of the loop on any push for pay raises. Franchini did not realize that the press was listening to his
interview with the hiring committee and would catch him telling different stories to different people.
Franchini went on to attack Lyons as he defended himself against Marks' question. Franchini said Lyons had played politics at the expense of others. Franchini even said he was tired of such tactics and he was not going to take it anymore.
He should not be allowed to take another nickel from taxpayers. Franchini is exactly the sort of duplicitous administrator that New Mexico and every other state can do without.
His deputy, Gonzales, sat through the interviews with the other finalists for insurance superintendent. She apparently had no real work to do, her main mission of the day to monitor the competition that could unseat Franchini.
The state needs a new commissioner of insurance, thereby ridding the operation of the self-serving likes of Franchini and Gonzales.
This probably will not happen.
The hiring committee seemed tilted toward Franchini, deferring to his
blather when it should have been grilling him.
at least raised the issue of Franchini's involvement in the salary
mess. Franchini's open admission that he lied to his bosses at the PRC is now in the record.
New Mexico can do better -- much better -- than John Franchini. But, politics being what they are, Franchini may survive, getting the job when he should get the gate.