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NMFA chooses Texan for CEO post

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SANTA FE – The New Mexico Finance Authority board voted Wednesday to pick Robert Coalter of Texas as the chief executive for the agency, which has recently emerged from an audit scandal.

Coalter, currently the executive director of the Texas Public Finance Authority, was one of two finalists for the NMFA job.

Finance Authority board Chairwoman Nann Winter said Coalter’s experience at the helm of a public agency stood out to the board.

“He administers very similar programs and has for years,” Winter told the Journal.

The board’s 9-1 vote in favor of Coalter’s selection came after a 20-minute discussion behind closed doors.

However, some details must still be worked out before his hiring is made official.

NMFA interim CEO John Gasparich said he will try to negotiate a salary and start date with Coalter in the coming days. If an agreement on those matters is reached, the NMFA board is expected to formally approve Coalter’s hiring at its December meeting.

Winter, who is resigning from the NMFA board at the beginning of next month, said Wednesday that she is optimistic a deal can be struck.

The Finance Authority’s last permanent chief executive, Rick May, earned $150,000 annually. May was fired by the NMFA board in September 2012, two months after it was discovered the agency’s 2011 audit had been falsified.

The fallout from the audit scandal also prompted the agency, which functions like a bank for local governments, to postpone bond sales and temporarily restrict loans to cities and counties.

However, national credit rating agencies have since affirmed the NMFA’s top bond rating – one class of bonds was even upgraded – and a special audit spearheaded by the state Auditor’s Office ultimately found no evidence of theft or embezzlement related to the 2011 audit.

The NMFA board conducted a national search to identify candidates for the chief executive job. The two finalists, Coalter and Kevin Powers of Albuquerque, were interviewed by the board this month.

Gasparich, who has served as the agency’s interim CEO for more than a year, did not seek the permanent position.

Coalter’s career has been largely based in Texas. Before his current job, he spent 15 years as assistant director to the state’s comptroller, according to his résumé. He has also worked for the Texas Department of Insurance.

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