Once again, news out of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission reads like a D-list script – except this time the bad actors are members of the staff.
The latest drama includes a whistleblower calling out supervisors and other employees for searching sites like magnaporn.com on taxpayers’ time and dime; someone using a federal database to try to find dirt on the whistleblower; a supervisor using a Post-it note on the investigation file to tell staff “Please keep somewhere safe”; somewhere safe ending up being a locked compartment in an employee’s horse trailer; and years later the widow of that employee discovering the file and turning it over to authorities.
The tale would be entertaining if it was playing at the dollar theater. Unfortunately, this production has already cost the public $135,000 ($110K for inflicting emotional distress, $25K for not disclosing the evidence in the horse trailer). And the tab could rise with pay-related damages and attorney fees and costs for the wronged whistleblower, Maurice Bonal Jr.
To make the reviews even worse, at least one PRC commissioner was unaware of the mess until Journal investigative reporter Thom Cole called to ask about the latest payout of public money.
In 2012 New Mexicans went to the polls and voted to professionalize the PRC, establishing qualifications beyond age and a clean criminal record. That reform was prompted in no small part by a series of shameful shenanigans by people no longer on the commission. Unfortunately, it’s now apparent the PRC staff requires the same push into professionalism and accountability.
As part of the voter-mandated reforms, the PRC streamlined its operations, shedding its insurance and corporations duties. That streamlining should include staff in addition to any bad actors on the commission.
Perhaps they can get jobs as movie extras. There’s apparently a horse trailer available.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.