Witnesses testify about county financial ‘losses’
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Bernalillo County Treasurer Manny Ortiz faced a judge in Albuquerque today over his potential recall election.
One county resident wants Ortiz out because of risky investments the county says are costing taxpayers millions.
The judge has to decide if Ortiz’s actions have been incompetent or negligent and if they warrant a recall election. People behind the recall petition tried to argue Friday that Ortiz’s investments have cost upwards of $23 million.
Several witnesses including county manager Tom Zydunek and county commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Wayne Johnson took the stand Friday.
Commissioner Johnson testified that while Treasurer Ortiz’s long term investments are still in the market, the county has to make its budget based on how they’re currently worth — and they’ve lost millions as interest rates have gone up.
Several people within the county, including Zydunek claim that the county will likely never make up those investment losses for years. Because of those losses, the county has already made cuts to some services and purchases, according to commissioners.
Johnson also expressed concern about the future in Friday’s hearing.
“I would argue that when I go to the taxpayer and they send me a dollar and we have to lose ten percent on that dollar because we have to sell them (bonds) early due to really, following the wrong policy, as the wrong order of our policy, not protecting that corpus, in other words that secure investment, then we’re not doing our jobs,” said Johnson.
Ortiz’s defense argued that the investments could go back up in value if the market changes and that the treasurer has made the county millions over the past couple years. Ortiz’s attorney added that commissioners never expressed concerns about the investment strategy when it was doing well and never expressed concern until it was too late.
“If we have started doing this (selling bonds) in the previous administration and 2013, those losses would have been much less,” said Johnson.
Ortiz’s attorney, Christopher Lucero responded by asking, “Was there a recommendation in any of your board of commission meetings that you were recommending the sale of securities at hearings?”
Johnson responded, stating “no.”
The judge didn’t make a decision on Friday because more witnesses are expected to testify, including Manny Ortiz. Court will resume next week.
If the recall petition is approved, more than 45,000 voters will need to sign it to get it on a ballot.