Thursday, May 27, 2010

More space on Rail Runner these days

If it seems like you've got a section of seats all to yourself these days on the state's commuter train, you're right. See what I found out about decreasing ridership numbers here.

With ridership going down, one big question in next week's gubernatorial primary is what the candidates will do about the train and its dropping revenues. . . Let's see if any of the candidates address it tonight during the gubernatorial debate on Channel 4.

In the meantime, check this related report from Channel 13.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Show's over for the film museum

Gov. Bill Richardson's office just announced it will close the state's film museum as of June 30th to save money. 

"While the museum has hosted a number of screenings and educational events it is imperative that we concentrate our resources on the core mission of developing our film production industry, including supporting the local independent filmmaking community," Richardson said in a statement.

It's unclear right now how much the move will save and what will happen to the employees who work there. The museum was created in 2003. A colleague here, Robert Nott, reported in March that the museum didn't have a programming budget, any exhibits or any events planned and that the director, Sharon Maloof, who had been earning $85,000 a year, had her salary cut to $55,000.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Case of laid off exempts gets curiouser and curiouser

Because I'm a nosy reporter, I took the time earlier this week to compare the list of exempt employees who were given a pink slip to a list of exempt employees who were hired last year that I received as part of a records request.

Were any of the recent exempt hires fired within months of landing work, I wondered?

Indeed, several of the titles of people hired in the second half of 2009 match the titles of people the Governor's Office said were let go as part of an effort to reduce state spending. But were the people hired between July and December of last year the same people who were laid off?

Good question, you might say.

Keeping in mind that some of the people on the list could have quit instead of being laid off, I sent this query to Governor's Office.

Several of the titles listed on the information sent to us Friday match titles of exempt people who were hired in the last part of 2009. 

I'd like to know if: 
-- the two part time racing stewards hired at the State Racing Commission are the same two racing stewards who were laid off? 

-- the special assistant III at DCA is the same special assistant III at DCA who was laid off? 

-- the division director II at the HED was the same division director II at the HED who was laid off? 

-- the capital projects director at DFA is the same capital projects director at DFA who was laid off? 

-- the executive director at the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is the same executive director at the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who was laid off? 

-- the staff assistant at the Governor's Office is the same staff assistant at the Governor's Office who was laid off? 
I was told that the Governor's Office doesn't have a list of the names of the people who were laid off and thus couldn't answer my question. When I asked whether anyone in the administration could answer the question, I received no reply. 

It looks like more questions than answers remain.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Richardson releases titles of separated exempt workers

Gov. Bill Richardson's office today released a list of the titles of the exempt employees who recently have been separated from state government. The move comes months after various local media and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government repeatedly asked for the names of the 59 exempt employees who were laid off earlier this year. The list has 69 people who were separated from state government. I take that to include people who were laid off, fired or quit.

The information came with a news release that says Richardson has eliminated 1,071 vacant positions, including 73 exempt positions that were vacant. His office said Richardson now controls 346 filled exempt positions.

Here's the list of gov exempt separations

And here's the list of gov exempt positions that were eliminated. The Governor's Office said two lists overlap somewhat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Raul Burciaga is new Legislative Council Services director

The Legislative Council just chose assistant director Raul Burciaga to replace outgoing director Paula Tackett, who announced her retirement in April.

Burciaga, who graduated from UNM Law School in 2000, said he has no immediate plans to make big changes to the council service. No doubt he'll be busy running the council, which is seen by some as one of the toughest jobs at the Capitol because it often involves brokering deals between the two parties, and even between factions of the same party.  

More exempts find work

Hiring of exempt state employees continues at a pretty good pace, I found from a recent Inspection of Public Records Act request. Read the list of recent hires here.

Although their attempts failed this year to limit the exceptions to the hiring freeze primarily to jobs that are matters of public safety, some state lawmakers say they will try again to put a lid on expanding state government. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 7, 2010

PRC releases more comments from ethics survey

Remember the stories I did way back when on the Public Regulation Commission's ethics survey and how the commission at first refused to release comments that employees submitted as part of their responses? It later released some redacted comments.

Well it turns out commissioners Sandy Jones, Jason Marks and Jerome Block voluntarily released more comments, according to a letter sent to me yesterday. The three said that the comments were not required to be disclosed under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.

Still, there are major redactions. Take a look for yourself at the comments and what is blacked out. Doesn't tell you much, but the tidbits you can read are quite interesting. . .