UNM losing two highest-ranking attorneys

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state’s largest university is about to lose its two highest-ranking attorneys.

University of New Mexico’s Senior Deputy Counsel Kim Bell will depart in mid-June for a new position, following UNM’s lead lawyer, Elsa Kircher Cole, out the door. Cole previously announced her plans to retire on June 1 after five years as university counsel.

Bell, who has been at UNM for 10 years, accepted a job as associate general counsel for Presbyterian Healthcare Services. She said she had not applied for Cole’s position because she’d decided to pursue something new.

“I’m leaving UNM for another opportunity that I’d heard about potentially opening up several months ago,” Bell said in an email to the Journal. “I’ve been lucky to work with outstanding people here and I will always be grateful to UNM.”

Bell had also earlier this year applied for the Albuquerque city attorney job.

The Office of University Counsel has 11 attorneys, including Cole and Bell, between its main campus and Health Sciences Center offices.

University President Garnett Stokes recently convened a search committee to help identify Cole’s replacement. Stokes has asked the committee to recommend up to three candidates for the job — which will now be titled “chief legal counsel” — and aims to make a selection by September.

Alfred Mathewson, co-dean of the UNM School of Law, will serve in the position on an interim basis.

School policy dictates that UNM conduct a national search for the university counsel position and that the president inform the Board of Regents before making an appointment. Two regents, Rob Doughty and Marron Lee, will sit on the search committee with seven UNM employees, including Mathewson and the head of human resources, and a representative from Academic Search, a Washington, D.C.-based search firm.

UNM did not specify a salary in the job description, but Cole earns $246,000 annually, according to UNM’s sunshine portal.

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