Mario Burgos

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

With every passing week, it becomes ever clearer that Governor Richardson, and everyone in his administration,  will find themselves tainted come Election Day by the pay-to-play political scandals of the last eight years:
Douglas Goldberg, a former vice president of CDR Financial Products, admitted in federal court in Manhattan on Monday that he was involved nationally in bid rigging of investment agreements and other contracts involving municipal bonds from 1998 to at least November 2006. He is cooperating with authorities.
        

Goldberg was involved in getting CDR hired in 2004 to work on the $1.6 billion state bond program in New Mexico known as Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership.
        

The company won a contract as an adviser on exotic financing arrangements that were not described in the request for proposals issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority.
        

It later received a no-bid, sole-source deal to manage the escrow account for the bond proceeds from the authority, which was charged with handling the GRIP financing for the Rail Runner and other New Mexico transportation projects.

The voting public is not going to be able to drive a road or see the RailRunner without being reminded that someone bought the opportunity to win those projects from this administration.  Now, some of you may think that Governor Richardson is termed out, so this is all just water under the bridge.  But, this is clearly not the case.

Take for example the current scandal plaguing the Secretary of State's office. We might all remember that not all that long ago Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna was chased from office for the shakedown of those doing business with his office:
Former New Mexico Insurance Superintendent, Eric Serna, got forced to resign after years of allegedly shaking down those that came under his authority:
Serna indicated to Madison that he favored "good corporate citizens" making contributions to legitimate charitable organizations. Ruiz said Serna sometimes "looked the other way" on fines when insurance companies agreed to make contributions to favored charities. Ruiz said Serna would choose Con Alma and $35,000 would be sufficient.
At first glance, some might argue that he is just trying to help out some needy charities. Of course we later learned that Serna used at least one of those charities as his own personal slush fund.
A couple of years later, we see that absolutely nothing has changed. Our elected Democratic officials are still following the example set by the Richardson Administration:
A string of e-mails obtained by the SUN does support one of the allegations made in Salazar’s letter. Salazar states in one e-mail to [Secretary of State Mary] Herrera that he feared losing his law license because of activities in the Office.
“Ma’am, I not only have a duty to protect you, this office and the people of New Mexico, I also have my law license to protect,” Salazar wrote in a Feb. 12 e-mail to Herrera. “By law, this office is charged with responsibility for enforcing the Governmental Conduct Act. If we are asking our current contractors for this, then it is illegal.”

This e-mail refers to the Office’s attempt to ask private companies that contract with the Office for money to help fund a training event for county clerks to be held later this month.
What blows my mind is that you would think Secretary of State Mary Herrera would be particularly diligent in following the letter of the law considering her immediate predecessor is under indictment for her activities while heading up that office. But hey, this is the Land of Eternal Single Party Rule.  A magical place where elected officials can shakedown businesses and individuals with impunity.  Sure, they will occasionally have to throw one of their own to the scales of justice, but then they go back to their ways without ever worrying about Election Day ramifications... until now.

Election Day 2010 is looking to be the day the piper finally comes to get paid.  People have had just about enough and are ready to bring honesty back to elected offices. Granted, the favorite attorney of the pay-to-play crowd (e.g. Vigil and Correra) may see a downturn in business, but the rest of us will be far better off.  Heck, it looks like even Mr. Bregman might need a little time for a breather. His ability to outright deny the allegations of wrongdoing by his clients is becoming more and difficult:
But Bregman told the Journal that Salazar's resignation had nothing to do with any of the concerns voiced in the letter.
        

"It had everything to do with the fact that he didn't want to work," Bregman said. "It's clear he wasn't a good fit for this office — as he said in the e-mail — and that's because it required a lot of work."
Even the casual reader can't help but notice that in his attempt to deflect the blame, even Secretary of State Herrera's attorney didn't deny the allegations of the resignation letter, which if you haven't read, I would strongly urge you to do so (hat tip: nmpolitics.net).

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

North Koreans Come to the Rescue

You've got to love the timing of the thing. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. Former Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is indicted on 50-counts for laundering millions of dollars, and Governor Bill Richardson holds "productive talks" with the North Koreans.

I can't help, but feel the need to take a trip down memory lane back to April 30, 2007:
Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It's like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State's office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn't aware the shortfall was that big.

"I was not aware of the size of the deficit," he said. "I was aware there was some expenses that hadn't been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it's important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done."

The governor's announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron's appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

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."

Of course, you've got to love the Governor's logic in that last paragraph, "[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Hmm, I wonder... let's try that a few different ways...
"Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

"Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."
That about sums up the problem with New Mexico politics. Now, I'm sure that the timing of the Governor's meeting with the North Koreans was just a fortunate coincidence.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Before You Vote in the Poll

This week blogger Heath Haussamen has a poll on his site which asks, "Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mary Herrera is doing as secretary of state?" Now, if you're thinking of selecting approve, I would imagine you are basing your decision on the fact that, unlike her predecessor, Ms. Herrera is not under investigation for mismanagement of federal funds. But, I'd challenge you to base your evaluation on a slightly higher bar.

Granted, the level of corruption has become so commonplace in New Mexico elected offices that we might be tempted to think that a lack of corruption means someone is doing a good job. But, I'm here to remind you that there are still places in this great country where a lack of corruption is assumed, and job performance is actually based on the ability to manage the office in question.

To this end, let's take a look at the July 17, 2009 LFC Staff Hearing Brief on the status of information technology (IT) at the Secretary of State (SOS) office which came about in response to the numerous articles regarding the inaccessibility of the SOS website.
Outcome. The evaluation found that SOS
  • Does not have the technical capability or capacity to manage IT projects;
  • IT staff support infrastructure or legacy applications;
  • Has outdated hardware, software and systems; and
  • Does not have a disaster recovery plan for all its missioncritical systems.
Mind you this is for a system for which over $7 Million has been spent in the last nine years. Okay, now that you armed with some information, you can go ahead and vote on the job performance of the SOS.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Exceptional Excel Worksheet

If you didn't catch Secretary of State Mary Herrera's column on Heath's blog, take a moment to read it. It is an attempt by Ms. Herrera to explain how inadequately funded her technical needs are. For example:
Thanks to Sen. Dede Feldman, who reinstated her capital outlay money from prior years, we received a $70,000 appropriation. We used that to create an Excel spread sheet and update the forms for that year for candidates to file their campaign reports. This amount only allowed us to do minor enhancements.
Wow! It took $70,000 to update an Excel spreadsheet, and a couple of forms. I'm really trying to get my head around that one. That must have been one heck of a spreadsheet. I'm kind of thinking that sounds like a pretty nice job for a programmer. A $70,000 salary and you get to focus on updating a few forms and building a spreadsheet. If I had that job, I'm pretty sure my golf score would be much, much lower.

Of course, it gets better. That $70,000 was only the beginning:

The following fiscal year we were appropriated $176,500 for additional enhancements. Rather than spending any more funds on a 14-year-old system that is outdated and that FileOne (the company that makes the software) has advised us they will be doing away with in the next two years, we went to the Legislature to ask for a change in the language that would allow us to use these funds to pursue another option.

The Legislature allowed us to do that effective July 1 of this year.

We are now moving forward on utilizing these funds to purchase the Washington State system. Due to the funds available, we will have an improved system, but not a new system.

Ok, let's see. That puts us at just under a quarter of a million dollars for a "14-year old system" that still doesn't work right. But, like a Ginsu knife commercial, wait, there's more.

You might remember that the previous Secretary of State also spent hundreds of thousands on the broken campaign reporting system. I was so troubled by this ongoing process at the time that I went ahead and built a site that allowed for instant reporting and searchability of campaign contributions and expenses. The total cost: $200 and twenty hours of work.

Unfortunately, I only had two takers, so I've long since taken down the website, which had garnered some attention at the time. What's the point of all this? Well, it's to make a simple point. The current Secretary of State, like her predecessor, has absolutely no good reason for not having a functional website. Saying that she isn't spending as much as other states is a cop out too. Just because other states have overpaid for their campaign reporting websites, doesn't mean that we have to as well.

Heck, the federal government spent over $27 million to redesign a website. For those of you who have no idea whether that's money well spent. Let me say unequivocally that is the Web 2.0 equivalent to hammers and toilet seats that cost hundreds of dollars. But, maybe Ms. Hererra, would like to use that benchmark to explain away her failures.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Non-Resident Obama Campaign Workers to Vote in New Mexico

As we come into the final hours of the campaign, Palestra.net confirms at least one Obama campaign worker who is here temporarily has registered to vote in New Mexico and requested an absentee ballot. This particular worker has such deep ties to California, where he lives and works, that only two months ago, he served as a California delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

According to comments made in an interview County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver admits that out of state non-residents can register and vote in this election. Ms. Toulouse Oliver goes on to say:
It's not so much that it's allowed, that it is not enforced. There's really no enforcement measurement in place to evaluate whether someone's submitting a registration based on a temporary address.
In the interview, Secretary of State Mary Herrerra confirms what we all know. Namely, that these visiting out of state campaign workers should not be voting in our elections. The Obama campaign refused to confirm how many out of state workers, they've brought into New Mexico.

It remains to be seen whether or not the mainstream media will pick up this story. If they do, they should ask the Obama campaign in New Mexico to release a list of all out of state temporary workers, so that can be compared to our voter rolls.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Bill Richardson Endorsement of Obama

It probably looks like I've been avoiding writing something about Bill Richardson endorsing Barack Obama. I haven't. In fact, I already wrote about it back in January:
Yet, is Richardson calling it quits? Not yet. Mind you, he's got a job to do here with the pending legislative session, but he's just not willing to throw in the towel. Why? Well, he likes the national limelight too much. New Mexicans know (or at least they should be now) that Bill Richardson is in the game for Bill Richardson. And, based on the reports of Richardson throwing his Iowa votes to Obama, the Clintons now know it too.

Richardson is a deal maker of the first order. So, what kind of deal do you think he struck with Obama? You don't think he would shun the Clintons without some sort of backup plan, do you?


It looks like Governor Richardson (or should I say Secretary of State Richardson) just stuck to the plan.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Biggest Surprise of the Weekend

A lot more readers than usual came by to visit the blog this weekend. And, I do a mean a lot. The regulars know that I rarely write on the weekend, and this one was no exception. After all, a man can not live by politics alone. There is also golf.

With regard to the GOP election, let's leave it that I'm glad the intraparty race is now behind us, and we can now focus, under the continued leadership of Chairman Allen Weh, on the tasks at hand - namely, getting Republicans elected in 2008. A task that might be made easier as the full breadth of the Courthouse kickback scandals (subscription) continues to unfold :
The practice has become commonplace.

For example, Design Collaborative Southwest got help from another former public official— Tom Rutherford— in getting the contract for the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion, an addition to the University of New Mexico Hospital.

The architectural and engineering work cost $10.5 million, according to a fact sheet distributed by the university.

Rutherford served in the state Senate for 24 years. He was a county commissioner for two terms, through the end of 2004, the year the hospital project was approved.

Rob Perry, an attorney for Schiff, said Rutherford was used as "government affairs liaison" in helping the firm get the contract for the hospital expansion.

Richard Braun, president of Studio Southwest Architects, the successor to Design Collaborative Southwest, said he had no information about Rutherford's role with the firm.

Rutherford could not be reached by the Journal. State records indicate Rutherford is now a lobbyist for the University of New Mexico.
Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It's like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State's office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn't aware the shortfall was that big.

"I was not aware of the size of the deficit," he said. "I was aware there was some expenses that hadn't been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it's important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done."

The governor's announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron's appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

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."

Of course, you've got to love the Governor's logic in that last paragraph, "[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Hmm, I wonder... let's try that a few different ways...
"Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

"Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government."
Folks, that line of reasoning is right up there with Governor Richardson's rationale for withholding judgment on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Brainless Politicians

I've been taking it easy on the blogging this week, but this is just too good to pass up. A couple of days ago the Albuquerque Tribune published the following:

Newly elected Secretary of State Mary Herrera, who takes office Jan. 1, says her predecessor is leaving her with a $225,000 operating deficit.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron says that's nonsense. She's leaving a surplus, she says, and if Herrera "had any brains in her head," she'd know that.

Then in today's Albuquerque Journal, I read this (subscription):
Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants an additional $3 million to help pay for last month's election, including a "surprise" bill for more than $700,000 from the Nebraska firm that sold New Mexico its fleet of new voting machines.
Now who doesn't have "any brains in her head?" How the heck does the state receive a "surprise" bill for anything? Don't we have a procurement process in this state? Here, I thought we could finish the year without a scandal, but leave it to the Democrats to go out in style.


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