Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kilmer Owes Half Mill in Back Taxes

$538,858 in federal income taxes to be exact, at least according to The Detroit News' Tax Watchdog blog.VAL KILMER GOES TO MEET THE GOV

According to the blog, the tax lien was filed by the IRS in July 15 in Bergen County, N.J.

Kilmer early this year during the regular session of the Legislature paid several visits to the state Capitol, including at least one visit to Gov. Bill Richardson's office (as pictured at right.) He did little to discourage rumors that he was considering a run for governor.

However, in recent months, Kilmer, who has a home in Pecos. seems to have dropped off the face of New Mexico. One of the few times he's made headlines since the session was in April when it was revealed that he's trying to sell his ranch in Pecos for $33 million.

I'll update this if I can get Kilmer for a response.

No More Contests for Buckhorn Burgers

When San Antonio, N.M.'s Buckhorn Tavern last week won a televised green chile cheeseburger cook-off with Food Network chef Bobby Flay, Gov. Bill Richardson proclaimed July 24 "Buckhorn Tavern Day." In the same news release, Richardson called for a statewide contest at the state fair to determine who makes the best commercial green chile cheeseburger.

But according to the Socorro Defensor Chieftain , Buckhorn owner Bobby Olguin says he's got nothing more to prove and won't be taking part in the state fair contest.

"... but I'll help them find the second best burger in New Mexico," Olguin told the paper, saying he'd be happy to participate in the contest as a judge.

The Defensor Chieftain pointed out that Gentleman's Quarterly named the Buckhorn's green chile cheeseburger the 7th best burger in the U.S. in 2005, and the Buckhorn was rated the "Baddest Burger in the Land" on the Web site. (I wanted to provide a link to that, but the Marlboro site has an intense registration process requiring your driver's license number, etc. This is to protect the children I suppose.)

In his call for a contest, Richardson quite correctly pointed out that there are lots of great green chile cheeseburgers in out great state, including the Owl Cafe, just across the street from the Buckhorn.

The episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay in which the Buckhorn Taven won will be shown again on The Food Network at 9 pm Sunday.

UPDATE: A Santa reader justly chastised me for not mentioning that our own Bobcat Bite has won a whole bunch of burger awards and honors, including, apparently Bon Appetit's "Best Burger in America." (I'm not sure which year.) Plus, it's the only New Mexico burger den to ever have a song written about it by ex-Angry Samoan Greg Turner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

City Council Approves Lease & Purchase of College of Santa Fe

I've been following this on KSFR .

In a series of votes the Council voted unanimously in favor of several aspects of the plan -- except for Councilor Patti Bushee, who voted against the purchase agreement. She said she wasn't satisfied with some of the provisions. But she voted yes on other aspects of the deal.

UPDATE: The New Mexican's story by John Sena is HERE

Roundhouse Roundup: Bingaman Stands By Public Option

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 30, 2009

Sen. Jeff Bingaman has been a strong proponent of a government-sponsored “public-option” health insurance plan that would be available to all Americans. He voted last month in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for a health care bill that included such a plan. Just last week, his office, at my request, sent several statements Bingaman made in favor of the “public option.”

So I was surprised this week to read a report from ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf that Bingaman and other Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee are backing away from the public option plan.

“And while the bipartisan negotiators, led for Democrats by Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, are not ceding some key liberal talking points,” Wolf wrote in ABC’s The Note, “ ... they are moving toward a series of non-profit, non-government co-ops to compete with the insurance industry instead of a government-run health plan.”

On Wednesday, Binagaman’s spokeswoman Jude McCartin explained in an e-mail to me, “Yes, Sen. Bingaman continues to support — and work for — a strong public option. It was clear from the start that the Finance Committee would have a different approach than the HELP Committee. The goal is to work toward getting a strong public option in the bill that reaches the president’s desk.”

Sounds like there could be some detours before such a bill gets to that desk.

Son of a Gun: I was bemused Wednesday to read a story in The Hill that the National Republican Congressional Committee had named former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is challenging Rep. Harry Teague for his old Southern New Mexico congressional seat, as one of its 13 “Young Guns.”

Pearce, a “Young” Gun? Western movie buffs might ask if this means he’s as old as Billy the Kid. (Actually Pearce will turn 62 next month.)

According to The Hill, Young Guns is a training program to help non-incumbent GOP congressional candidates. The candidates “must demonstrate a base of support, develop a media messaging plan for the race and show they are capable of raising enough money to get their message out,” the article says.

Among those 13 Young Guns is Jon Barela, 49, who is challenging Democrat freshman Martin Heinrich for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Adam Kokesh, the only Republican challenging Rep. Ben Ray Luján — at least so far — didn’t make the Young Guns, even though at 27 he really is young. And being a former Marine, he knows something about guns.

But the NRCC has a habit of ignoring the heavily-Democratic 3rd District. As reported in this very column last year, the day after the 2008 June primary, the group issued a statement congratulating GOP primary winners Darren White in CD 1 and Ed Tinsley in CD 2. But they didn’t even mention Dan East, who won the Republican primary here.

Matthew Padilla
Speaking of primaries: One of the most crowded next year is likely to be the Democratic lieutenant governor’s contest. I ran into state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino recently, who predicted six or seven contenders for the position besides himself.

Another name just popped up this week, and I don’t think he was even part of Ortiz y Pino’s calculations. That’s Matthew Padilla. Originally from Albuquerque, he’s served as an intern for Bingaman as well as U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island. He’s also a former Naval officer.

In an e-mail to “New Mexico bloggers” (including me), Padilla wrote, “I have been thinking very seriously about running for Lt. Governor of New Mexico.”

Besides Ortiz y Pino, other candidates for that job include Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano and state Sen. Linda Lopez. State Auditor Hector Balderas and Mid-Region Council of Governments executive director Lawrence Rael have said they are considering the race, and state Democratic Party chairman Brian Colón has been mentioned as a possibility.

Richardson Urges Council to Vote for CSF

Gov. Bill Richardson just released this statement on tonight's City Council vote.

John Sena's story on the vote is HERE.

Gov. Bill Richardson is urging Santa Fe City Councilors to approve several measures aimed at saving the College of Santa Fe and will attend tonight’s city council meeting to speak in support of the proposals.

“Tonight’s vote is critical to the future of the College of Santa Fe and I want to personally assure the city council that the State of New Mexico is a committed partner in this endeavor to save the school,” Gov. Richardson said.

The Santa Fe City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a measure that will allow the city to purchase the college’s campus, with support from the Governor’s Office, and lease it to Laureate Education. The proposed partnership developed out of the Governor’s College of Santa Fe Task Force which he convened earlier this year to develop a plan to save the financially troubled college.

The governor has committed up to $11 million in state and federal funds for the project: $5 million in funds authorized to the General Services Department for a land purchase that the governor is urging the legislature to reauthorize for a similar purchase at the College of Santa Fe, $4 million in the governor’s discretionary federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and $2 million in federal economic development funding.

SIC WIll Allow Exemptions to the No 3rd-Party Agent Rule

But only on a "super-majority" vote (seven of the nine State Investment Council members).

Check out my story about this and other modifications to the SIC's recently adopted transparency and disclosure policy in today's New Mexican. CLICK HERE

Monday, July 27, 2009

NM Finances Slide

Probably no big shock to anyone but the state's financial outlook continues to get worse.

Here's how a newly released report from the Legislative Finance Committee and Department of Finance & Administration begins:

The balance in the state's bank account is dwindling, both
a victim and an indicator of New Mexico's economic slump.

Like a falling balance in a family's bank account, the state has less cash on hand to meet unexpected expenses or reductions in monthly income, or to invest and generate interest earnings.

The state's invested general fund balance stood at $1.6 billion at the end of May 2009, according to the state treasurer's investment report for June. The balance on the same date in each of the two previous years was about 50% more — $2.3 billion in 2008 and $2.5 billion in 2007.

It is normal for the balance to fluctuate, due to a mismatch in monthly expenditures and revenues, but the balance in 2009 is on a relatively steep downward trend compared to the past three years.

The report itself is below:


I Thought They Did All Their Talking In Court

A few weeks ago, Attorney General Gary King's press office woudn't even give reporters copies of the indictments of Vincent "Smiley" Gallegos and others charged in the Housing Authority scandal. In fact other times they've indicted politicians, i.e. Jerome Block Jr. and Sr., the AG has been virtually mum. (Reporters have commented that King's office isn't so reluctant to discuss indicted non-politicians.)

That's why this news release sent Friday seemed rather odd. Gary King actually is blowing his own horn. Here he mentions Smiley and Roberta Vigil -- but not the Blocks.
What Is the AG Doing About Public Corruption?

By Gary K. King
New Mexico Attorney General

We have come to the stage where our investigations have resulted in indictments and prosecutions. One of the challenges of the AG's job is to properly manage requests for information from the general public, legislators and the media about ongoing investigations. I have stated this many times but it is always good to repeat: For ethical and legal reasons, my office will have little to say about our investigations until and unless such information becomes public record, as in the filing of an indictment. This policy is utilized for everyone's protection and the preservation of the legal process. When it is proper to do so, I will always provide updates. Here are some things we have been doing on your behalf.

In May of this year, the Attorney General's Office successfully obtained convictions against former West Las Vegas Schools official Roberta Vigil, who was found guilty of two felonies in a fraud and conspiracy trial that involved public money. And just recently, former West Las Vegas schools superintendent Joe Baca agreed to plead No Contest to a fraud charge and pay restitution of $2,750 in the same case.

In June, an investigation by my office led to the indictment of former Region III Housing Authority Executive Director Vincent "Smiley" Gallegos and three others on fraud, embezzlement and money laundering charges. Again, public funds were involved.

Earlier, my office obtained a court determination that led to the removal of three tenants from homes owned by the Housing Authority because they did not qualify for affordable housing. Two were employees of the authority and the third was a board member. Additionally, an Albuquerque Metro Court judge was disciplined for a conflict of interest related to another aspect of the matter.

More government corruption cases will follow, that is why I formed a special Government Accountability Division (GAD) in the Attorney General's Office shortly after being elected.

As I have said before, public corruption poses the greatest single threat to the credibility of government institutions at all levels. It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy and perception, leads to the misallocation of resources, fosters unethical behavior and ultimately harms all New Mexicans either directly or indirectly. It is the sole job of the GAD to evaluate, investigate and prosecute cases of public corruption.

We, as a society, should not gloat over the fact that some people are being prosecuted for their alleged misdeeds. Instead, we should be thinking about more ways to make it very clear that it is not OK to steal from the public treasury.

It is not just a problem for New Mexico, we have all heard and seen similar stories elsewhere. But just because corruption can occur at any time in any place does not mean it should be tolerated. I think there is a growing mentality in New Mexico and the nation that says we can not sit on the sidelines while our pockets are picked by people we trust. And just because a certain political faction is in power does not give people the right to rob the public coffers with impunity. That kind of thinking is as outdated as it is wrong. Fortunately, more and more ethics-minded public servants are gradually replacing those who feel they have a "right" to help themselves at our expense.

During tough economic times, people are more mindful of their money and they are more closely scrutinizing how others spend their tax dollars. I believe New Mexico is part of a national groundswell of support for more honesty and transparency in government and reduced tolerance for those who use their public offices to enrich themselves and their friends and associates.

The citizens of New Mexico expect a lot from those of us in law enforcement and the judiciary, they should. Perhaps just as important, people should know that they can help us do our jobs by alerting us to corruption and other crimes. This is where I think we all can make a difference in that culture of corruption. When our society no longer tolerates it, when people act as a community against it, corruption may finally disappear from the headlines in our daily news.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Contributions from the Health Care Industry

I meant to post this earlier today, but better late than never.

Here's a link to my story in today's New Mexican about contributions to our representatives in Congress (Sens. Bingaman and Udall and Rep. Lujan) from the medical sector.

No smoking guns. Just good to know who's trying to buy access -- uh, I mean support good government -- in this important area.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Buy One Anyway

I don't usually shill for charities, but this looks worthwhile. (Thanks, Rebekah)

Ponder this and have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

NM Chooses Stewart

As New Mexico goes. so goes the nation.

Comedian and Daily Show host Jon Stewart won a Time magazine online poll as the most trusted newsman since Walter Cronkite died.

Hopefully most of us realize that online polls are not scientific. But don't let that little fact ruin the fun.

Time has an interactive map where you can see state-by state results. Stewart won New Mexico poll participants getting 40 percent of the votes compared with 35 percent for runner-up Brian Williams. That's a smaller margin for Stewart than the national vote. But it's clear we like our fake news in this state.


Even though it's a little troubling that people don't know the difference between "news" and political satire, maybe moments like this clip illustrate why Jon Stewart is the most trusted name in news:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Roundhouse Roundup: PARTY TIME!

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 23, 2009

Some Internet surfers who stumble across the Web site known as "Party Time" might be disappointed to learn that it has to do with social events to raise money for members of Congress.

But that's what you find at, a project of The Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C., organization dedicated to creating more transparency in government.

"It's not all hearings, floor votes and constituent services for members of Congress," the site says. "From the early morning hours until late at night, there are opportunities for members of Congress and congressional candidates to meet with supporters behind closed doors, press them for money, and party. Breakfasts, luncheons, barbecues, golfing outings, receptions, concerts, basketball, baseball, football — the social whirl is endless."

You can search for your congressman or senator and see who's throwing their parties and even view copies of the invitations, which are provided by "reputable anonymous sources."

Naturally, I checked New Mexico's delegation to see what parties they're going to.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who represents the northern 3rd Congressional District, has two events listed since he became a congressman in January. One was the well-publicized June 10 fundraiser with a "special guest," House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Ben Ray Lujan, Dem
The invitation says, "Please note: People for Ben does not take money from Federally Registered Lobbyists." But there's no such limitation for political action committees for interests represented by those lobbyists. The invite listed several contribution levels: $5,000 for a PAC "host," $2,500 for PAC "sponsor," and $1,000 for guests.

Luján's other event on the site was a June 23 breakfast at a restaurant called Tortilla Coast. The contribution levels on the invitation were the same as the Hoyer event.

Party Time doesn't specify how much money was raised at the individual events.

New Mexico's other congressmen, Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague, have more parties than Luján listed on Party Time (four for Heinrich and eight for Teague.)

If you judge by what's available on Party Time, you'd conclude that our House members party a lot more than our senators. Freshman Sen. Tom Udall's most recent event was a breakfast at a place in D.C. called Bistro Bis in September. Senior Sen. Jeff Bingaman's most recent event was in 2006 — when he was running for re-election. This is due to the fact that U.S. senators have six-year terms as opposed to the two-year terms of House members.

"The only active fundraising Jeff has done for himself since 2006 were his annual dinners in (New Mexico) with Bingaman Circle supporters," said Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin in an e-mail this week. "He raises about $100,000 annually there."

"Sen. Bingaman typically has not actively raised funds for himself until two or three years before his election," McCartin said.

Some in Congress may be partying more than what is indicated on Party Time. Udall's spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said in an e-mail that "There were additional fundraisers past the September date noted."

A tragic note: Employees at the Roundhouse were shocked and saddened after a tragedy that happened to the family of a Capitol security guard. At a July 4 celebration in Rio Rancho, Jarrod Truesdale, 26, son of security guard Hal Truesdale, was killed after being struck by lightning. Jarrod Truesdale's wife, Jessica, also was struck and remains in a coma. The couple have four children ranging in age 18 months to 7 years.

Jarrod Truesdale was an Iraq war veteran, who did two tours of duty. He worked as a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Several of Hal Truesdale's co-workers will be attending the funeral, which is 10 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel in Rio Rancho.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Zanetti Ditches Guv Race

Greg Zanetti Greg Zanetti, the first Republican to start campaigning for the 2010 gubernatorial primary on Friday became the first to drop out.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Zanetti, who recently returned from a year of serving as deputy commander at the U.S. Naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba., said:

“Last year I was deployed with the 75 New Mexico National Guardsmen to Guantanamo Bay. This deployment, as all Guard deployments, was more difficult for families than for the Guard members themselves.

“I returned to New Mexico and immediately began exploring a run for governor. I traveled our state for the past six months, visiting all four corners and many communities. I met hundreds of New Mexicans and was greeted warmly. These travels only increased my love of New Mexico and my fellow citizens.

“But to myself and to my family these travels seemed like another deployment. I missed a number of important family events. I have concluded that another year away from my family is just not acceptable, so today I notified GOP Chairman Harvey Yates and other potential Republican candidates that I will not seek our party’s nomination."

Zanetti was considered a longshot for the nomination. He's a former Bernalillo Country GOP chairman. His only other race for public office was an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 1994, losing to Walter Bradley, who went on to win on a ticket with Gary Johnson. Zanetti works as a financial adviser..

Other Republican candidates include former state GOP Chairman Allen Weh, who actively is campaigning. Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez was expected to announce her candidacy today. State Rep. Janice-Arnold Jones has formed an exploratory committee and former Gov. Johnson's campaign manager Doug Turner, who owns an Albuquerque public relations firm, has said he's seriously interested.

Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson also has said she's considering a run for governor.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the only announced candidate.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Supremes Uphold Cockfighting Law

The state Supreme Court has denied cert -- in other words, won't hear -- a lawsuit filed by the New Mexico Gamefowl Association and others challenging the 2007 law against cockfighting, which went into effect last last.

That means the state Court of Appeal's upholding of the law remains in effect.

All five Supreme Court justices concurred with the decision.

Still alive, however, is a federal lawsuit filed by the Gamefowl Association in Las Cruces earlier this year.


Adam Kokesh, the "Revolutionary Patriot" who is challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for his District 3 Congressional seat next year says he'll run as a Republican.

Kokesh, a supporter of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign last year -- and who has Paul's support for his Congressional race -- dropped this news in a press release this morning.

He comes from a long line of Republicans and has been registered as a Republican since he was old enough to vote. He has indicated he filed with the FEC under the Republican Party. Often a critic of the party leadership, he believes the actual platform--limited government and lower taxes--is most aligned with his belief system, even though the Republican office holders have strayed far away from the party platform.

Kokesh probably won't be alone in the GOP primary. Rio Rancho businessman Dan East, who ran against Lujan last year, has said he'll try again.

UPDATE: I spoke to East today. He said he's still contemplating a run but hasn't made up his mind. He also wouldn't say whether he'd back Kokesh if the ex-Marine wins the GOP primary.

Here's Kokesh's FEC filing:

Kokesh Filing District 3 NM FEC

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: Gambling on the Gambling Issue

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 16, 2009

As the state Republican Party continues to accumulate more and more candidates and possible candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the only announced Democrat running for governor, continues to accumulate more and more money.

According to a campaign finance report released Wednesday, in the past three months, Denish raised more than $512,000 for the 2010 race. That means she’s raised more than $2.2 million since the beginning of 2007. And, as of the end of June, more than $1.8 million of that still was in the bank.

Her biggest contributors were unions: $25,000 from The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and $11,500 from the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council.

Denish’s campaign released the report voluntarily. Under current law, candidates are required to file just one report, in May, with the Secretary of State’s Office. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and the governor signed a new law requiring more frequent reports, but that doesn’t go into effect until after the next election.

Therefore, there are no new reports for comparison from the Republican candidates. So far, former GOP state chairman Allen Weh and former Bernalillo County Republican chairman Greg Zanetti are campaigning actively for the position, while U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones and public-relations company owner Doug Turner have said they are thinking about it. Blogger Heath Haussamen reported Wednesday that longtime Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez will announce her GOP gubernatorial primary bid this week.

The Gamble: While Republicans can’t be happy with Denish’s fundraising successes, there were some contributions listed that are bound to lift their spirits. She received $10,000 from Sun Ray Gaming of New Mexico, which runs a racetrack in Farmington, plus $1,966 from Zia Park Racetrack in Hobbs and $1,500 from Sunland Park Racetrack.

This money fits in well with the theme in a cable television ad from the state GOP last week lambasting Denish for casting tie-breaking votes on a bill to expand the hours of operations for nontribal casinos in the state while taking tens of thousands of dollars from gambling interests. The ads refer to statements Denish made prior to being elected that gambling was bad for the economy. The ad calls Denish’s votes “a pay-to-play jackpot.”

The state Democrats tried to dismiss the ad, pointing out that it only ran on cable stations, not broadcast TV. But there's lots of folks these days-- like me -- who watch almost exclusively the cable news networks (and Comedy Central), so I'm not sure that distinction is vital.

One thing the ad doesn’t mention is that out of the 19 senators who voted for the racetrack bill, nine were Republicans. In fact, a lopsided majority of Senate Republicans voted for the bill.

And some of the same gambling figures who have contributed to Denish also have given to the GOP. Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino owner Stan Fulton of Las Vegas, Nev. — who has given Denish $25,000 so far in her gubernatorial run as well as $10,000 for her last lieutenant governor run — gave the state Republican Party $10,000 in 2002 and $25,000 in 2000. (This information is from the National Institute of Money in State Government and Denish’s own reports.)

And in material sent to reporters to back up the ads, the Republicans guild the lily somewhat by referring to gambling contributions to “the Richardson/Denish ticket.” While candidates for governor and lieutenant governor do run together as a ticket, the candidates maintain separate campaign treasuries.

Still, there are plenty of gambling contributions to Denish herself to give her opponents ammo: $22,500 from Zia Park CEO Bruce Rimbo since 2006, $17,000 from Ruidoso Downs in 2006 and so forth.

But her political director, Steve Fitzer, said Wednesday that the campaign won’t shy away from taking more gambling money. “We’ll accept contributions from any legitimate business in New Mexico,” he said. He also defended Denish’s tie-breakers. The track in Denish’s hometown of Hobbs employs 650 people during racing season, he said. “Her vote helped create jobs,” he said.

But somehow I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the “pay-to-play jackpot” talk from the Republicans.

Below is the ad:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Auditing ValueOptions

Thirteen state legislators are asking state Auditor Hector Balderas to conduct an audit of ValueOptions, the company that ran the state behaviorial-health program for the past four years. ValueOptions lost the contract to a company called OptumHealth, which took over the program on July 1.

Here's the text of that letter.
Dear Mr. Balderas:

We are writing to request that the State Auditor undertake a special programmatic and financial audit of the behavioral health statewide entity contract with ValueOptions New Mexico ... . This request is being made pursuant to a great number of complaints that we, as state legislators, have received from our constituents who have suffered both as clients and providers since ValueOptions began performance pursuant to its contract as the behavioral health statewide entity. Recently, complaints have been made regarding ValueOptions' transition of services to the new statewide entity, OptumHealth of New Mexico ... .

These complaints involve allegations that ValueOptions has:

• been untimely in its payments to providers, resulting in the loss of some providers in areas where there are few or no behavioral health services;
• made inappropriate and untimely denials for services to clients;
• failed to provide adequate access to care to clients;
• failed to ensure that services of adequate quality have been provided to clients;
• failed to pay providers at adequate reimbursement rates;
• failed to provide adequate information to clients and providers on its protocols, procedures and means of contacting its personnel;
• retaliated, in the form of more dilatory payment and denial of reinvestment funds, against providers who have complained of its policies and performance;
• failed to maintain adequate and timely documentation, as required by federal and state law and regulation;
• ignored input from providers on policies and procedures;
• failed to provide services that are culturally appropriate to New Mexico's diverse populations; and
• unfairly increased the administrative burden on providers.

Regarding the transition of services to OptumHealth, we have received reports from providers that telephone service has been cut to certain ValueOptions offices and that these providers are having difficulty reaching any ValueOptions personnel.

We are also concerned with the response of the responsible state agencies to complaints such as these. Some providers and clients have complained that the New Mexico Behavioral Health Collaborative, the Human Services Department and the Department of Health have not been responsive to their complaints about ValueOptions.

We are also seeking a review of the terms of the contract with the behavioral health statewide entity and a determination as to whether due diligence has been exercised to enforce the contract's terms.

Moreover, we are concerned about reports, such as that of the Legislative Finance Committee in August 2008, that behavioral health costs have risen drastically since the contract with ValueOptions began, while the number of clients served has apparently decreased.

We ask that this special audit of the programmatic and financial aspects of the state's contract with ValueOptions be reviewed as soon as possible and that recommendations be made for enforcing the rights of New Mexico state government and the intended beneficiaries of its contract, New Mexico's behavioral health clients and providers.

The letter was signed by State Reps. Nathan Cote, Mary Helen Garcia, Mimi Stewart, Gloria Vaughan, Danice Picraux, Bill O’Neill and John Heaton and Sens. Cynthia Nava, Steven Fischmann, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, David Ulibarri, Dede Feldman and Mary Jane Garcia.
A spokeswoman for Balderas said the auditor intends to seek funds for such an audit from the Legislature.

ValueOptions spokesman Lon Wagner told me Tuesday that his company already was audited earlier this year by the state Behavioral Health Collaborative and came up clean. In a prepared statement, Wagner said,
“It was resolved earlier this year through an audit by the collaborative, which examined dozens of our claims on a case-by-case basis. The conclusion? ValueOptions did not deny services and that we did properly grant authorization."

ValueOptions spokesman Lon Wagner said Tuesday that his company already was audited earlier this year by the state Behavioral Health Collaborative and came up clean. Wagner said in a prepared statement “It was resolved earlier this year through an audit by the collaborative, which examined dozens of our claims on a case-by-case basis. The conclusion? ValueOptions did not deny services and that we did properly grant authorizations.” To conduct another audit, Wagner said would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Betina Gonzales McCracken, spokeswoman for The Behavioral Health Collaborative -- which consists of 15 state agencies -- released a statement defending the collaborative's actions.

The Behavioral Health Collaborative is happy to work with the State Auditor to review the contract between the state and ValueOptions New Mexico in its very unique and new process in administering behavioral health services for New Mexicans.

The Collaborative quickly acted on complaints from behavioral health providers and consumers about inadequate payments and inappropriate and untimely denials for services which led to several Directed Corrective Action Plans. Failure to fully comply with the corrective action plans has resulted in more than $1.5 million in sanctions. The Collaborative is determined to hold ValueOptions accountable for the sanctions.

The Collaborative, which is comprised of 15 state agencies, has a standing oversight committee that is responsible for ensuring the statewide entity is held in compliance with the contract. This committee has exercised oversight, plans of corrections, directed plans of corrections and has recouped funding when appropriate.

Under the Collaborative, New Mexico has been able to get a true indication of the unduplicated number of people being served with publicly behavioral health services across several state agencies. This had never been done prior to this Collaborative approach which began in 2005. Therefore, the conclusion the LFC staff drew in their 2008 review was incorrect.

ValueOptions and its top brass have contributed thousands of dollars to Gov. Bill Richardson’s political campaigns.

The Associated Press reported in November 2007 that Richardson’s presidential campaign received nearly $25,000 from executives, officers and state lobbyists for ValueOptions. Some of that money later was refunded.

On the state level, ValueOptions gave $2,000 to Richardson’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2002, while Beth Dozoretz, wife of ValueOptions CEO Ron Dozoretz, gave Richardson’s re-election campaign $3,983 in 2006

The company contributed $2,300 to various lawmakers’ campaigns in 2008 and $500 to Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in 2006.

More in tomorrow's New Mexican.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pearce Running For Congress

I'm still on vacation, but I figured I had better phone blog this press release. So here from Hog's Family Restaurant in Flagstaff, Az. :

Hobbs, NM -- For the past half year, I have stood by and hoped for the best for our state and country. I had hoped Harry Teague would look out for the hard working people of New Mexico.

Sadly while I hoped for the best, Harry Teague embraced a reckless set of policies that directly jeopardize our economy and threatens future generations.

He went to Washington and quickly voted for massive amounts of wasteful spending, loading up on pork barrel projects and radically increasing the size of government.

Now Harry Teague chose to vote for the job-killing cap and trade bill. If this bill becomes law, it will devastate jobs in New Mexico and further cripple the American economy.

Harry Teague’s cap and trade bill will:
Hit families with as much as $1500 a year in higher energy costs.
Destroy jobs in New Mexico’s energy sector.
Will cost New Mexico over $200 million in higher electricity bills, but lower costs in California and New York.
Harry Teague put his allegiance to the liberal leadership of Nancy Pelosi ahead of the working families of New Mexico.

I can not let this happen to the people of New Mexico. So today, I am signing paperwork to run for the Second Congressional District. This district needs a Congressman who will fight for jobs for New Mexico families. Harry Teague won’t. I will.