ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a report raised a lot of questions about money to help keep Albuquerque’s veterans monuments in good shape, the city is changing its procedures and tightening up its controls to manage that money.
The New Mexico Veterans Memorial is home to 21 monuments, honoring veterans and capturing important moments in history.
Monuments include dedications to Pearl Harbor survivors and to women in the military.
Over the years, the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Foundation has worked with outside groups interested in funding a particular monument.
An Office of Internal Audit review shows the foundation was in charge of collecting a fee of 10 percent of the initial cost of installing a monument to put toward a repair fund for long-term maintenance.
However, the review found that for about a dozen monuments, including the Purple Heart monument and monuments for Prisoners of War and the Korean War, the city couldn’t tell if that repair money had been collected because it wasn’t documented by the foundation.
Foundation President Bernie Lambe said he just took the position four months ago, so he can’t speak to whether the foundation regularly collected that repair money before, but now he says he’s working with the city to make sure these monuments are taken care of.
“We haven’t been providing the maintenance up until recently. [The foundation was] required to provide the maintenance of the works, using those funds but they didn’t have the expertise to do that, so therefore, they didn’t expend the funds,” said Matthew Carter, project planner with Albuquerque’s Public Art Urban Enhancement Division. “So the funds just sat there.”
He said the city hosted workshops to teach foundation volunteers to clean them in the past, but moving forward it will be taken care of by the city’s public art conservators. He adds that the city’s public art division will manage the memorial repair fund, ensuring the finances are documented.
“We recognize the importance of this place, and we need to make sure there’s a mechanism in place to make sure that this place serves as a place of reflection and a place where we can honor our veterans,” Carter said.
The review did point out there was documentation for five monuments, which showed the repair money was collected.
In fact, in one case, the foundation was paid $200 more than the required fee.
The review also suggests that the city consider getting rid of that maintenance fund and using city money to keep the monuments in good shape.