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Editorial: AG needs to investigate broadband project

Hey, Hector! Or more formally, Attorney General Balderas.

You might want to have one of your criminal investigators check eBay for that missing cable.

A report released by State Auditor Wayne Johnson on Tuesday raises serious questions of possible criminal conduct in the implementation of a $10.5 million federally funded project to take high-speed broadband services to about 75 “anchor” institutions like schools, hospitals and government agencies in northern New Mexico.

According to an audit commissioned in 2016 by Johnson’s predecessor, Tim Keller, and performed by an outside firm, nearly 10 percent of the money can’t be accounted for and 12 miles of fiber optic cable valued at $200,000 is missing.

As in … gone.

Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, and president of a local economic development district that received the grant, disputes the audit and says things must be just fine, because, after all, the feds signed off on what was submitted to them.

Among those who don’t appear comforted by that is David Trujillo, the Rio Arriba deputy county manager and vice chairman of the REDI NET board that took over the project. He says the findings are “very serious and confirm many of the concerns the REDI NET board has raised.”

This is one of those tales that could find its way into New Mexico political folklore – especially given the fiber optic cable twist. But it shouldn’t be under the category of another one who got away.

There is plenty here to pique the interest of Attorney General Hector Balderas.

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.