Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another SHARE problem ... or maybe it's the same one

An internal audit has found that the state DOT didn't bill the feds for $23 million it could have in 2007 because of SHARE. The DOT did get the money in the next two years, however. Read this story for details.

While DOT spokesman S.U. Mahesh says the SHARE system isn't designed to meet the specs the Federal Highway Administration needs for reimbursements, he said the program is working at many other state agencies.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Problems with SHARE attract state employee ire

My e-mail has been buzzing with info related to the story I wrote on Saturday about recent problems in the SHARE system. It seems most state employees (or at least the ones commenting on the story on our web site who appear to be employees) agree on one thing: the system needs major improvements.

The Federal Highway Administration agrees, as well, saying last week it is suspending reimbursements to the department over the way the SHARE system is billing the feds. That's a big deal, given that 40 percent of the state DOT's budget comes from Washington.

Several non-employees have asked what exactly SHARE does. I found this link to information on the program. Note that Roy Soto, listed at the top right of the page as the project sponsor, left the department as secretary in August of 2008. Marlin Mackey took over after that and is currently the secretary.

Stay tuned on this one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Feds suspend all reimbursements for state DOT

Sounds like a major deal: the Federal Highway Administration has suspended all reimbursements to the state DOT amid a dispute over how the state is submitted bills for reimbursements.

At issue is the well known and problematic SHARE computer system and how it produces reimbursement reports. To make a long story short, those reports don't give the feds what they need to repay the state.

A letter to DOT Secretary Gary Giron said regulations require states to have financial management systems that allow federal officials to adequately trace whether funds are spent in compliance with federal law.

While there a still a million questions about the SHARE system and it's abilities, another question revolves around what the state would do without all that federal funding? That's a big question, given that about 40 percent of the state DOT's budget comes from the feds, and that the state has an 80 - 20 split on construction projects, with the 80 percent coming from Washington.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Journal sues DOT

...according to this story from the Associated Press. At issue are public records the paper says it requested but didn't get from the Department of Transportation.

The lawsuit says "The department has violated the IPRA (Inspection of Public Records Act) in order to derail and obstruct an investigation into potential corrupt practices and incompetent management of public funds by high-ranking public officials in the employ of NMDOT," according to the story.

DOT officials say they have turned over requested info and that "failures to initially release the documents 'were inadvertent and were not intentional,'" the story says.

Gov. Bill Richardson on Twitter

Hey cool, Gov. Bill Richardson is on Twitter. (Well, his staff are anyway.) You can sign up and check out his updates from his current trip to Rome here. (While you are there, sign up for our tweets, too, by searching for TheNewMexican.)

So just how much is that trip to Rome costing you, anyway, you ask? My colleague Steve Terrell checks it out here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Witness list filed in Block case

The Attorney General's Office has filed the witness list used in the case of Jerome Block Jr., and Jerome Block, Sr.

They are:
-- Special agent Don Jochem
-- Deputy secretary of state Don Francisco Trujillo
-- Las Vegas Optic managing editor David Giuliani
-- San Miguel County Clerk Paul Maez, head of the band Wyld Country
-- Jacob Martinez, Block Jr.'s campaign treasurer
-- Briana Garcia
-- Isaac Jaramillo
-- Larry Lujan
-- SOS ethics administrator Tracey Littrell
-- Simon Balkey, lead singer of Wyld Country
-- Paul Smith
-- Block Jr.s' campaign spokesman Jonathan Valdez

It's unclear who all testified in front of the grand jury that met before the indictments came down last week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Block Jr.: 'no intentions of abandoning my duties'

Jerome Block, Jr. plans to stay on the job, he told PRC employees in an e-mail this morning. The message comes on the heels of the indictment of him and his father Wednesday. Here's the e-mail:

Dear Friends,

I’m sure most of you have been made aware of my personal situation. I would like to take a moment to make it clear to all of you that I have no intentions of abandoning my duties as PRC Commissioner. Please know, I am going to move forward business as usual.

I value all of you, and I deeply appreciate the efforts you put into your job every day. As always, my office is open to all of you and I am available to all of you. Again, thank you for what you do for this commission.

Thank you,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Block Jr and Sr indicted

By Kate Nash
The New Mexican

A state grand jury has indicted Jerome Block Jr. and Jerome Block Sr. on election-related charges. The younger Block’s charges included two counts of embezzlement.
Block Jr., a Public Regulation Commissioner, was indicted on eight counts while his dad, a former PRC commissioner, was indicted on four.
The charges for both include violations of the election code, conspiracy to commit a violation of the elections code, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence.
Block, Jr. is also was indicted on two counts of embezzlement over $500 but not more than $2,500.
A grand jury had been meeting in the case since late last month and the indictment was filed just before noon.

Vegas paper: Block Sr. a target of investigation

The same grand jury investigating PRC commissioner Jerome Block Jr. wants to talk to Jerome Block Sr., as well, according to the Las Vegas Optic. Read the story here.

"When it comes to the state’s grand jury investigation into his campaign finances, Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. now has some company. Jerome Block Sr., the official’s father and a former member of the PRC himself, has been named as a target of the same grand jury that is investigating his son," the paper reported this morning.

When reached this morning and asked whether he had been issued a subpoena, Block Sr. declined to comment.

It also said that the Optic's managing editor, David Giuliani, "received his second subpoena to testify before the grand jury, which is set to reconvene today. Both of the Blocks’ names were listed as targets of the investigation."

The Attorney General's Office this morning said the case is still ongoing and it couldn't comment. Giuliani couldn't be reached this morning, either.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Richardson signs contractor database

All you database and open government wonks can rejoice: Gov. Bill Richardson has signed HB 546, which puts onilne a searchable database of contracts worth $20,000 or more.

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish issued a statement hailing Richardson's signature of the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque.

"New Mexicans deserve to know who is doing business with their government. This law will enable all citizens to track state government contracts, follow the flow of public money, and understand how it is being used," she said. "Ethics reform in government starts with transparency, and I’m proud to have worked hard on this effort which guarantees more sunshine on the business of government."

The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gov. signs open conference committees bill

Gov. Bill Richardson today signed the open conference committees bill approved by the Legislature.

"I have always maintained that this is a decision that should be made by the Legislature, without involvement by the executive branch," Richardson said in a statement. "Nevertheless, the Legislature chose this path and I have signed the bill out of respect for its desire to further open the committee process to the public. Despite the flaws in the bill, the public wins with an open process,” he said.

Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who sponsored the measure, applauded the governor. He said that in the future, people might puzzle over why it took the Legislature so long to approve the measure.

"I have no doubt that years from now it will hard to understand how this was ever an issue," he said in a statement. "But it has taken years of work to assemble the reformers, who now share a confidence that our policies, spending and conduct, must stand up to public debate and scrutiny. We can only expect wise judgment from the citizens if we first confidently entrust them with knowledge."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ben Ray Lujan to visit 3rd Congressional District

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan has so many upcoming events in the 3rd Congressional District, I can't fit them all in the newspaper. So here's the list in its entirety if you wanted to visit with him about something while he is here for the next two weeks as part of the latest Congressional district work period.

Tuesday April 7, 2009
7:10 am – Congress on the Railrunner, Rail Runner from Santa Fe Rail Yard to Sandoval/US 550
2:30 pm to 4:00 pm– Open Office Hours, Rio Rancho District Office, 3200 Civic Center NE Suite 330
4:30 pm – Congress on the Railrunner, Sandoval/US 550 to Santa Fe Rail Yard

Wednesday April 8, 2009
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm – Congress on Your Campus, Eastern New Mexico University SUB, 1500 S Ave K, Portales

Thursday April 9, 2009

8:15 am – Congress at Your Cafe, Pow Wow Cafe, 801 W Route 66 Blvd., Tucumcari
12:30 pm to 1:30 pm – Congress on Your Corner, Mosquero Courthouse, 35 Pine Street, Mosquero
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm – Congress at Your Cafe, Roy Sundries Cafe, 325 Chicosa Street, Roy

Monday April 13, 2009

8:00 am – Congress at Your Restaurant, Bruno’s Restaurante, 6453 Main Street, Cuba
11:00 am – Congress at Your Senior Center, Bonnie Dallas Senior Center, 109 East La Plata Street, Farmington
12:00 pm – Congress at Your Restaurant, Chef Bernie’s, 910 West Main Street, Farmington
1:00 pm – Open Office Hours, Farmington Civic Center Board Room, 200 West Arrington Avenue, Farmington

Tuesday April 14, 2009

1:00 pm – Congress in Your Classroom, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe
3:00 pm – Open Office Hours, Santa Fe District Office, 811 St. Michael's Drive Suite 104

Wednesday April 15, 2009

11:30 am – Congress at Your Senior Center, Espanola Senior Center, 735 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Road, Espanola
1:00 pm – Congress in Your Classroom, Espanola Middle School, Industrial Park Road

Thursday April 16, 2009

12:00 pm – Congress at Your Restaurant, El Monte Carlo, 2435 highway 522, Questa
1:30 pm – Congress on Your Corner, Main St. Marcantile, Red Rive

Friday April 17, 2009

8:00 am – Congress on Your Corner, Eagle Nest Village Hall, 151 N. Willow Creek Drive
9:30 am –Congress at Your Restaurant, Double C Restaurant, 31033 Us Highway 64, Cimarron
10:30 am – Congress on Your Corner, Elida CafĂ©, 801 Railroad Ave, Springer
1:00 pm – Congress in Your Classroom, Union Elementary, Las Vegas
3:00 pm – Official Office Opening, Las Vegas District Office, New Mexico Highlands University, Purchasing Building on NMHU Campus, 903 University Ave.

Many bills in limbo between Legislature and Richardson's desk

You might think that as soon as a bill is approved by the Legislature, it heads to the governor's desk. But there's a process including getting all the needed signatures, some last proofreading and something called enrolling and engrossing a bill.

This is a total insider thing here, but the bills this year seem to be taking a little longer than usual to reach the fourth floor. No one is panicked yet, but I'm hearing grumbling about the slowness. Richardson's office needs time to look over the final version of a bill, and in particular bills that make simultaneous changes to the same part of law.

One example is the open conference committees bill, which the governor can't act on until he gets, but there are many others still in the pipeline. Richardson has until April 10 to act.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Richardson signs contribution limits, more frequent reporting

Gov. Bill Richardson just signed this and this into law. That means new limits on the amount candidates for office can receive and new rules about how often candidates must report contributions and expenditures.

Supporters of the measures at a press conference said the bills weren't perfect, but called them a step in the right direction. Some advocates fought for tougher measures, including more detailed campaign reporting than what is now required and for the limits to start sooner. The bill calls for them to take effect after the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Richardson didn't take action on the open conference committees bill today, saying that not many people have contacted him about the issue and that he's concerned about what he called a loophole that allows the Legislature with a two-thirds majority to close a conference committee.

Update, 12:16

Sometime after the press conference just now, Richardson also just signed the Electronic Medical Records Act, according to his office.

Gov to ink ethics measures

Gov. Bill Richardson today is set to sign some ethics bills approved by the Legislature. The e-mail from his office doesn't say what he'll sign but a good bet would be on the campaign contributions limits measure that lawmakers agreed to this session.

Ethics reform took some serious wrangling this session and many of the proposals out there were rejected or left to die because they couldn't get heard. But the Legislature took some steps, and the proposals will be back.

Still no word, however, on what Richardson will do on the open conference committees bill.