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AG: No discrimination in use of public money

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The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office found no discrimination in the appropriation of public money by the state Legislature, as alleged by the Albuquerque National Association of Advancement of Colored People.

In a letter to NAACP President Dr. Harold Bailey, state General Consul R. David Pederson reported that Attorney General Gary King was “deeply concerned” that the appropriation of public money by the state Legislature “might be influenced by illegal discrimination.”

Pederson told Bailey in the letter that he had discussed the matter with legislators and staff, including legislators who failed to sponsor hearings during the state Legislature earlier this year, for a pair of house bills seeking $2 million in funding for after-school tutoring programs.

“It appears that the absence of specific hearings on your two bills was not the result of any discriminatory animus,” Pederson wrote, “but rather the crush of legislative business during a jam-packed long session.”

Reacting to Pederson’s letter, Bailey, in an interview on Wednesday, said, “Discrimination is hard to prove.”

“But I think the key is that questions were raised about the fairness of the legislative process,” he said. “The process was challenged.”

In April, the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP held a news conference to condemn the failure of the state Legislature to pass state funding for a pair of longtime city youth programs that provide after-school tutorial and educational services to minority students.

Bailey identified the youth programs as the Excel Educational Enterprises and the Isshin Ryu Club. The first program showed success for more than 20 years improving the reading and math scores of students, he said, while the second one provided a county youth development and fitness program for children for more than 30 years.

Although the failure to get legislative funding threatened both programs, they continued with money allocated from other sources, including a grant from the city of Albuquerque, Bailey said.

Bailey said the outcome of the AG’s review was expected. However, he said the review has a positive effect in that it results in greater awareness of the legislative process regarding appropriations, and serves notice on legislators that their votes regarding funding of minority education and tutorial programs are monitored by the civil rights organization.

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