Coop and Town: The Scandal that Keeps on Giving
Kit Carson Electric Coop Trustees and their Energized CEO all ordered “colostomy” bags yesterday after getting disemboweled by J.R. Logan’s Taos News story, “Debt a factor in Kit Carson electric rate hike.” Coop critics and cockroaches, protesters and concerned members cheered the mild-mannered reporter for shedding light on the “debt” at the Coop. According to Logan’s story the Coop owes a collective $84 million but everyone believes, there’s more, much more where that came from, including the “$37” million being charged by TRI-State G&T for an “exit” fee.
Among other misguided stabs into the competitive markets, free markets where they can’t compete without the benefit of a monopoly, the Trustees voted to venture into a Call Center, Propane, Internet, Broadband, and Command Center businesses.
Thanks to five years of advocacy back at the turn of the Century, CEO Reyes managed to lobby the NM Legislature for a grant, a grant made to the Town of Taos for some $175,000.00 to design a Homeland Security/Command Center far larger and more exotic than the modest building pictured. Oh, yes, at the Town’s Planning and Zoning meeting, the commissioners sat up when they heard about the blast walls for the reinforced structure across the street from a Church and down the street from the Middle School ( They set it in a flood-plain.)
Anyway, Taos friend, Senator Pete Domenici delivered that big fat check for almost $3,000,000 to the Trustees one morning at a photo op. Some trustees even charged the Coop $150 for having their picture taken with Pete. Meanwhile, a funny thing happened on the way to the Command Center: none of the other entities, including the Town back in 2005-2007 wanted to play. No, the County, Forest Service, BLM, state cops all crossed their fingers and made the sign of the cross when they saw the Energizer Bunny.
RUS of the USDA gave Luis (the Trustees weren’t really involved, much) a check for $2.860,000: $550,000 grant; 2,310,000 loan. Included in the letter, dated Sept. 20, 2005, from RUS notifying the Coop of the award are fees for: Construction, $2,087,800; architecture, $429,000 (again!); Inspections, $143,000; Legal Fees, $57,000; and Contingencies, $143,000.
Trustees said the unappraised two acres of the land cost $400,000. The Architect worked for Luis, according to recorded interviews. But the Town paid the architect a total of about $183,000. Meanwhile, the final building somehow lost a few thousand square feet between concept, design, and build out.
Now what happened to all those additional square feet and those additional budget items for architectural fees? As we see it, the Town awarded an architectural fee, moneys granted to the town by the state legislature, to the Coop, a private business, in violation of the state’s “anti-donation” clause. We realize, of course, that Bellis-Barrone-Hahn team is not interested in past “wrongdoing.” And since Councilor Gonzales works for the Coop and was in on the final Command Center movidas, well, maybe the less said, the better.
Still, maybe that explains why all those radio ads were bought and broadcast on the Mayor’s radio station, promoting the KCEC monopoly, which also explains the “forced march” from Civic Plaza Drive to the KCEC Command Center despite advice from more sensible individuals, who relocated the E911 Center to the County Complex.
Hey, didn’t Peter Adang claim the trustees should be “recalled” because they had no “business plan”? And didn’t Luis term Broadband hook-up costs more “art than business” and didn’t the Coop steal from Paul to pay Peter? Maybe, Jeff, and Jerome and Las Cucarachas got a new ink-stained friend over there at The Taos News.
J.R. is our Truthdigger of the Week.
Another Unresolved Scandal!
Yesterday’s Taos News (they must be drinking caffeine this week) editorialized about the paucity of low-income housing and mentioned the “defunct” 150-lot Chamisa Verde development that sits mostly empty and idle. The deal went down under two mayors, Peralta and Duran. When it comes to violations of the procurement code at Town Hall, Fred has a long paper trail, what with a multimillion dollar swimming pool that never went out for bid and more architectural fees, etc., etc. etc.
On the Q.T.
Off the Record
August 15, 2008
From the New Mexico Justice files of the Journal North comes this famous quote from Santa Fe’s former municipal judge, Fran Gallegos: “I’m incompetent, but I’m not a crook.” Journal staffer Jeremy Pawloski tells us District Judge Michael Vigil stated that incompetence does not equal criminal intent. The jurist dismissed 12 counts of felony records tampering filed against Her Honor.
By Bill Whaley
Affordable Housing Mess
At press time, long-running requests for documentation of the Town of Taos’s Affordable Housing Program had reached a crisis. For months, town staff and contract attorney Scott Sanger have been scrambling to provide the paperwork for a review of the Chamisa Verde affordable housing program demanded by the state’s Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA). MFA’s attorney and Sanger himself, one of the original author’s of the 2005 Town of Taos affordable housing ordinance, have agreed—more or less—that the town is not in compliance and has allegedly violated a host of laws, including but not limited to violations of the anti-donation clause, violations of the state procurement code, and allowing uncertified or unqualified applicants to take possession of affordable houses. Other secrets lurk in the files.
According to Sanger’s correspondence, dated July 23, 2008, sent to the General Counsel of the New Mexico Municipal League, about 15 lots “were sold by the Town of Taos after the passage of the Affordable Housing Act and passage of the enclosed MFA approved Town Ordinances. Unfortunately, none of the lot sales appear to fully comply with Ordinance Requirements.”
Now, according to correspondence of July 25, 2008 from MFA’s attorney, “Because of the infractions of the Affordable Housing act and Rules discovered in our review of the Town of Taos’ implementation of the Chamisa Verde affordable housing program, and because the entire matter has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office for future investigation, MFA cannot at this time make any determinations regarding whether proposed or future transactions involving lots located in Chamisa Verde Subdivision I are or would be in compliance with the Act and Rules.”
To make matters worse, the New Mexico Self-Insurer’s Fund (NMSIF) for the Town of Taos has rejected the town as a potential client for now. In a July 22, 2008 letter, the general counsel writes that “The NMSIF obtained its first knowledge of this matter by transmission of a notice of the claim from Mr. Sanger. At this time the Fund is unable to honor your request to defend and indemnify the Town. The claims against the Town and the remedies sought by the MFA do not involve claims for damages sounding in tort; the claim is more akin to a claim for restitution.” If the town doesn’t agree with its insurer’s decision, it can ask for arbitration but, basically, according to NMSIF—the town is all alone.
At least one party, who purchased a house in Chamisa Verde is threatening to file a lawsuit against the town because the buyer can’t sell the property, according to documents obtained by Horse Fly. Despite the complex paperwork, lack of documentation, rules, regs, ordinances, and the Byzantine traffic in do-gooding, your town councilors—none of whom were in charge during this giant SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up), have a solution: Urge the Attorney General to investigate and charge the malefactors with criminal wrongdoing. Then, the NMSIF will be forced to defend the town and the taxpayers against lawsuits, which could cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.