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New Mexico Finance Authority chairwoman leaving

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SANTA FE – The chairwoman of the New Mexico Finance Authority board, who came to the troubled agency after a fake audit scandal last year, is stepping down in December.

Nann Winter, an Albuquerque attorney, said Tuesday that no specific incident prompted her decision to resign. Instead, she suggested the Finance Authority is now on more stable footing.

“I was tasked with managing a challenging time in the agency’s history and re-engaging the NMFA in its core mission – planning and financing state and local public projects,” she told the Journal in an email.

Winter was appointed chairwoman of the NMFA board by Gov. Susana Martinez in July 2012, just weeks after it was discovered the agency’s 2011 financial audit had been falsified.

NMFA interim Chief Executive John Gasparich said Winter helped guide the board through a period of upheaval.

“I think she felt like the storm had been weathered,” he told the Journal.

The Finance Authority board is planning to interview candidates for the NMFA’s chief executive job this week, Winter said.

Five candidates are scheduled to be interviewed – two from New Mexico, and one each from Colorado, Texas and Washington, D.C. – before the board makes its choice, Winter said.

It is unclear whether that NMFA board vote will occur at this month’s board meeting or at the November meeting, she said.

“With the selection of a CEO either this month or November, I believe the NMFA will be in a position to operate with tighter guiding principles and internal controls than it had in 2011,” Winter said.

Gasparich, who said he is not seeking the permanent CEO position, was hired in August 2012 after the NMFA board placed the agency’s previous chief executive, Rick May, on paid administrative leave.

May was later fired by the board, though he has claimed he was made to be a scapegoat for the audit scandal.

The Finance Authority, which functions like a bank for local governments, has flown largely under the radar in recent months – after its tumultuous 2012.

After a period in which bond sales were canceled and loans were restricted, the NMFA next week will hold its second bond sale since the falsified audit was discovered. In addition, two national credit rating agencies have affirmed the Finance Authority’s top bond rating.

In the year after the discovery of the fraudulent audit, the agency paid out roughly $1.6 million in costs related to outside investigations and reviews.

A special audit spearheaded by the state Auditor’s Office ultimately found no evidence of threat or embezzlement related to the 2011 audit, though it did conclude that a “massive failure” in agency oversight contributed to the scandal.

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