Commission under state investigation has had major money problems

MLK Commission Raid

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Attorney General’s Office raided the headquarters of the New Mexico Martin Luther King Junior Commission in Albuquerque Tuesday as part of a criminal investigation News 13 has learned centers around mismanagement of money.

News 13 photojournalists spotted AG’s office agents heading in and out of the commission’s headquarters at EXPO New Mexico, carrying out documents and several computers. An AG’s office spokesperson confirmed there is an ongoing investigation into the MLK commission, but declined to say who specifically was being investigated and for what.

Inside on Tuesday afternoon, the MLK commission met, but didn’t have enough members present to take any action, including possibly firing the commission’s executive director Kimberly Grene.

After that meeting, commission members gave hints as to what led up to the raid.

State treasurer and commission board member Tim Eichenberg told News 13 he met with the head of eREAD, a local educational non-profit on January 3rd and was provided several documents.

“There was just questions of checks… or [accounting] principles that were just alarming,” Eichenberg said.

Those documents were forwarded by the MLK commission to the AG’s office a couple of days later.

“Due to not impeding on that investigation I’m not going to be discussing any of the documents,” said MLK commission vice chair and public regulation commissioner Karen Montoya.

Montoya did term what was in those documents as “very concerning”.

The commission’s board isn’t the only one concerned. Last month, Greene appeared before the state board of finance to ask for $98,840.60 in emergency funding. That was alarming to state finance secretary Tom Clifford, because the commission’s annual budget is only around $336,000.

“That’s not a small overrun, that’s a huge overrun,” Clifford said.

Greene told the board of finance that the commission’s former chief financial officer had failed to pay bills for months and hadn’t properly kept track of the finances. A big problem centered around a no-bid contract given out to eREAD.

In 2013, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, had gotten $60,000 in funding approved by lawmakers for an ACT and SAT preparation program to be run through the MLK commission. The governor line-item vetoed that funding, but the MLK commission’s budget was increased by exactly $60,000 the following year.

During the board of finance meeting, Greene admitted that the test prep program was not part of the MLK commission’s mission nor likely allowed by law. Greene said the decision to green light that program was because the commission “ignorantly acted”. Even so, the commission gave eREAD a contract for those services without putting out an RFP. Greene said that happened at Rep. Stapleton’s urging.

“So she just — there’s just a phone call saying, ‘Give eRead the contract for the SAT/ACT’ and… ok?” asked Governor Susana Martinez during the meeting.

“Yes,” replied Greene.

According to the state auditor’s office, the MLK commission last submitted an audit in FY 2013.

The MLK commission is set to meet again Tuesday Feb. 2, with Greene’s firing again a possible topic of discussion. But commission board members acknowledge more than that likely needs to change.

“There has been trouble managing money,” Montoya said. “We’ll be looking for a lot of reform at this point.”

Neither Greene nor eREAD responded to requests for comment.

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