Mario Burgos

Clear thinking and straight talk from the top of a mountain.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why Now?

Yesterday's Albuquerque Journal (subscription) had a story that began:

The attorney general's office says its request for documents from a charitable foundation set up by state Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna is separate from the office's investigation into a contract Serna signed with a bank.

Now there is a glaring problem with that sentence. It is what's known as lying by omission. The sentence should have began:

The attorney general's office says its request for documents from a charitable foundation set up by state Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna and Attorney General Patricia Madrid is separate from the office's investigation into a contract Serna signed with a bank.

That's right, our Attorney General is investigating the foundation she set up. Just what sort of leadership role did she have in how it was established? I'm glad you asked:

2001: Serna is co-chairman, along with Attorney General Patricia Madrid, of a panel that forms Con Alma, a charitable foundation that gives grants to community health care programs. Money to start the foundation comes from the assets of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, which was being sold.

Also that year, the Public Regulation Commission, on a split vote, selects Serna as superintendent of the Insurance Division. The PRC oversees that division.


Oh, and don't you think for a minute that Patricia Madrid was just a figurehead removed from the day to day operations.

"When I first reviewed the proposed sale of Los Alamos Medical Center, my priority was on the short-term and long-term health care needs and interests of the residents of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties who were served by the hospital. That same priority was applied as I considered how to distribute the $4.5 cash portion of the $11.5 million settlement. These charitable health care assets are being distributed to Con Alma Health Foundation and the Hospital Auxiliary of the Los Alamos Medical Center. The awards, in the amount of $3.5 million to Con Alma and $1 million to the Auxiliary, are to be used to make grants to serve unmet health needs of the people historically served by the Los Alamos Medical Center," Attorney General Patricia Madrid said.

That was taken from a press release from the Attorney General's office. There is no denying it, Madrid was intimately involved in bringing money into Con Alma. And who got to manage that money? I thought you'd never ask.

SFR has learned that investor Guy Riordan heads up a


Eric Serna, above, says he considers Guy Riordan, below, a friend, but was not involved in the decision to have Wachovia handle Con Alma's investments.
team from the national brokerage firm Wachovia Securities that is entrusted with handling nearly $23.5 million worth of investments for the Con Alma Health Foundation.

That's right, Governor Richardson's drinking buddy and a top palm greaser of both the Governor and both indicted former State Treasurers. You know, the State Treasurers that Attorney General Madrid refused to investigate. Also please note what it says under Serna's picture. "[Serna] was not involved in the decision to have Wachovia handle Con Alma's investments."

That's odd, because:

At least one former Con Alma board member, Barbara McAneny (CEO of New Mexico Oncology and Hematology Consultants), says Riordan's involvement with Con Alma is worrisome in light of the recent testimony.

"Hearing all of this, I'm concerned as to whether we did the job we were supposed to do," McAneny says "and I'm concerned whether we had the appropriate stewardship of that money."

McAneny - who served on the board from Con Alma's inception in 2002 until 2005 when the board declined to re-elect her - also questions how Wachovia was chosen to handle Con Alma's finances.

"It was a done deal by the time it got to the board," McAneny says. "We were told here are your financial advisors' and that was it."

So, then who does that leave making the investment decisions? Attorney General Patricia Madrid? Governor Richardson? Am I the only one who finds it unnerving that:

Agents of the attorney general were wheeling cartons of papers out of PRC offices even as the commission met behind closed doors to discuss Serna's future.

Why Now? Why would Attorney General Patricia Madrid pick this scandal to investigate? Why wouldn't she take the lead in calling for an investigation by an independent prosecutor? What is in those cartons of papers that were being wheeled out of PRC offices? What does it mean when the Attorney General's representative says (subscription):

Spokeswoman Sam Thompson said no timeline has been set to finish the investigation.

"We understand they would like to move as expeditiously as possible, but we are trying to do a thorough job,'' she said.

Is that a creative way of saying we are not going to be able to complete this investigation until after the November elections? Is the Attorney General trying to minimize the damage this could do to her Congressional campaign? Is she trying to keep from getting indicted?
 
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