ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The University of New Mexico’s former chief lobbyist, who resigned after a drunken driving arrest, will not be returning to the school through a $50,000 consulting contract.
Marc Saavedra announced Friday that he asked the UNM Health Sciences Center to cancel his contract to do community relations work, saying the controversy surrounding the agreement had become too much of a distraction.
“I do think it’s in the best interest of the university and myself,” Saavedra told the Albuquerque Journal.
Saavedra said he plans to concentrate on his consulting firm, family and personal health.
The 43-year-old son of former state Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra is still on probation after being arrested for his third DWI in July 2014. At the time of his arrest, Saavedra was making nearly $156,000 a year as director of UNM’s Office of Community and Government Relations. He resigned a month later after being put on administrative leave
Saavedra had been arrested for his second DWI in 2006 and signed an agreement that gave the university the right to fire him if a similar incident happened again. He had also agreed to get treatment and undergo random drug and alcohol testing.
The award of the yearlong contract to Saavedra’s consulting firm drew criticism from the public. The executive director for the state branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said people convicted of DWI often struggle to get even entry-level jobs, implying that Saavedra’s contract was unusual.
UNM regent Rob Doughty had planned to bring up the contract during a board meeting. Doughty said he questioned whether the contract was legal and if it was just a way to ensure passage of a UNM mill levy election in 2016.
Health Sciences Center Chancellor Paul Roth, however, said officials are open to Saavedra helping as a volunteer.
“While I regret that Marc Saavedra has asked to cancel the contract, I am delighted that he has offered his expertise on a voluntary basis to the UNM Health Sciences Center,” Roth said.