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Friday, October 21, 2011

Sen. Tim Keller: We Need Sweeping Reform to Address Expo New Mexico Audit Findings

TimKELLERCrYesterday, the Legislative Finance Committee issued its report on the historical financial performance and operations of Expo NM (the state fair grounds).  Sen. Tim Keller, who represents the area in and around the Fair Grounds, responded to the findings. “It is now abundantly clear Expo New Mexico operations are rife with challenges and have been for some time.”

“New Mexicans deserves a well-run operation that is a pride point for the city, state and surrounding community. Expo has been in crisis mode for years and run adrift with millions of dollars for long enough. It's time the legislature reign in Expo operations with oversight and increased accountability.  I will be proposing legislation to reduce Expo’s autonomy and bring it under compliance with state purchasing (SPO), the sunshine portal and department of finance (DFA) regulations. I will also be restructuring the powers and duties of the State Fair Commission.”

As highlighted in the report, Expo New Mexico is run as in independent ‘enterprise’ that does not have to follow standard transparency and accounting practices required by the state purchasing office and the Department of Finance. Although it has been subsidized by the state for decades, it gets to make its own rules, Keller explained. With millions in budget dollars and contracts worth in excess of $50 million, this enterprise has been slowly drowning. “As you can imagine, the state, city and surrounding neighborhoods are very discouraged by these findings,” noted Keller. 

Pending Downs at Expo New Mexico Lease
The audit discussion also raised questions about the pending new $50 million lease for the racino grounds -- Downs at Expo New Mexico.  Sen. Tim Keller stated, “The process seems overly rushed, and I’m concerned Expo is getting into a 25-year lease without giving enough time to analyze various options and build a long-term vision for the grounds as whole. The RFP should be re-opened, a long-term plan should be in place, optimal lease rates determined and the community should have some input. It just makes business sense to allow for proper analysis of a $50+ million dollar land deal. “We can do a lot better than this,” concluded Keller. 

In reaction to Commissioner Rode’s statement that the “tax payers are subsidizing a racing company making millions and there is zero participation by state fair commissioners ... as it stands we are rubber stamp,” Keller noted, “It sounds like this RFP process has turned into a sham, and the Governor’s office should postpone it immediately.”

Need Totally New Structure
“The commission has too much power; it’s a playground for commissioners to come in and do whatever they want ... they do whatever they want when they want ... money thrown around left and right with no consequences,” stated state fair commission chairman Hossie Sanchez.  Keller noted, “We have to totally change the structure of state fair management. This is irresponsible and it’s been going on far too long. It reminds me of the SIC a few years ago, and I’m going to do all I can to reign this in during the next session. I hope others and Governor will join me in that effort.”

October 21, 2011 at 06:30 AM in Expo NM, Finance, Investments, NM Legislature 2011, Tim Keller | Permalink

Comments

Are we another step closer to extricating the NM State Fairgrounds from being held hostage by the Downs at ABQ? Perhaps we are closer than ever to turning this piece of state property into a sustainable economic engine that it has always had the potential to become. Fix EXPO NM!

Posted by: nmbcb4 | Oct 21, 2011 4:42:10 PM

“We have to totally change the structure of state fair management."

Political appointees, and then some wonder WHY:

"it’s a playground for commissioners to come in and do whatever they want ... they do whatever they want when they want ... money thrown around left and right with no consequences,” stated state fair commission chairman Hossie Sanchez"

Posted by: VP | Oct 22, 2011 8:29:24 AM