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Governor extends terms of two UNM regents

Two current University of New Mexico regents, whose formal nominations have repeatedly stalled in Santa Fe, will keep their seats under temporary appointments granted by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Tom Clifford

Tom Clifford

Garrett Adcock

Garrett Adcock

Tom Clifford and Garrett Adcock, the board’s student representative, received new “recess” appointments this month, extending their service through Dec. 31.

But the Governor’s Office is providing little insight into when or how she will fill the newest vacancy on UNM’s governing board – an entity that has shown growing signs of internal strain.

The seven-member board sustained its latest loss this month when Alex Romero announced his resignation. Romero, who cited difficulty working with the regents’ leadership, had served since last May on a recess appointment.

His resignation came one day after the Feb. 13 Board of Regents meeting, during which he publicly commented about communication issues within the board. Another regent described the board as “failing” during the same meeting.

A governor’s spokesman did not answer Journal questions about when Martinez would name Romero’s replacement or who it would be, saying only “an announcement will follow the Governor’s selection.”

New Mexico’s regent boards have attracted attention and scrutiny amid questions of political influence and, at times, sparked statewide controversy.

Just this month, a bipartisan group of 43 legislators signed a letter calling for New Mexico State University’s entire Board of Regents to resign after it moved to limit the hiring authority of Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, who is in his final five months on the job.

The lawmakers’ letter called it “drastic and questionable,” though regents contend they were acting within their authority and following best practices for universities during leadership transitions.

Meanwhile, nominations for the UNM board have languished. The governor has the authority to nominate regents, who are subject to state Senate approval.

But in an apparent standoff with the administration, the Senate Rules Committee has now gone two full legislative sessions without holding confirmation hearings for any of Martinez’s UNM regent nominees.

The committee chairwoman, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, did not respond to Journal messages on the matter.

That has left Martinez to repeatedly fill board openings with temporary recess appointments, including her recent renewal of Clifford and Adcock.

At this point, only four of UNM’s current regents have undergone the full Senate confirmation process, and that includes Regent Brad Hosmer, whose six-year term technically expired at the end of 2016.

Martinez had nominated John Ryan, a former state lawmaker and onetime state Republican Party executive director, to succeed Hosmer, but the Senate has never conducted his confirmation hearing.

Hosmer says he plans to continue serving until both the governor and Senate sanction someone to replace him.

Hosmer was among the regents who made conspicuous comments about university governance during the board’s Feb. 13 meeting. Both he and Regent Suzanne Quillen noted that the board has authority only as a “unit” and that individual regents have no power to act separately, something spelled out in policy.

Quillen also described the board as “failing” in its duties and publicly asked that the group “attempt to come together as a full board” to address the issues facing the university. She stressed the importance of board cohesion as UNM’s new president, Garnett Stokes, will start March 1.

Regent President Rob Doughty acknowledged in a written statement to the Journal that members have had differences of opinion. But he cited recent spikes in graduation rates as evidence of effective governance.

Clifford told the Journal that some of the issues raised by other regents did not match his own experience on the board.

“I think there seems to be a sense that there are decisions being made by subsets of the regents that are excluding other regents,” he said, “and I’ve never seen that.”

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