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Auditor: AG has files needed to check MLK panel

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State Auditor Wayne Johnson says audit of MLK State Commission is being delayed because paperwork for commission is tied up in an attorney general’s investigation. (Marla Brose/ Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The State Auditor’s Office is unable to complete audits of the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission for fiscal years 2014 though 2017, because the documents required to complete the audits were part of paperwork seized and still held by the Office of the Attorney General in connection with their investigation of the MLK State Commission.

State Auditor Wayne Johnson issued a statement Friday saying the MLK Commission “did not possess adequate supporting documentation in order for the auditors to render an opinion on their financial statements.”

Messages left Friday for MLK Commission Executive Director Leonard Waites and Associate Director Diane Mourning Brown were not returned to the Journal.

In January 2016, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office served search warrants on the offices of the MLK State Commission, seizing computers, bank statements, paycheck and payroll reports, travel and employee records, and other financial documents.

In January 2018, the MLK Commission’s former executive director, former financial auditor and the head of a nonprofit educational program that distributed funds on behalf of the commission, were indicted on charges of embezzlement, fraud, larceny, conspiracy and racketeering. Those cases have not gone to trial.

Johnson also released a letter he sent on Friday to Attorney General Hector Balderas saying that the delay in completing the audit was partly because of the removal and replacement of key management at the MLK State Commission, but also because the MLK State Commission has been under investigation by the AG’s Office “and therefore does not possess adequate financial records to substantiate the balances presented on the financial statements.”

In that correspondence, Johnson requested that the attorney general inform him “when auditors from our office or an IPA (independent public account) can review the records in your possession” in order to complete the remaining audits.

Office of the Attorney General spokesman David Carl said, “The OAG has in its possession items necessary for its criminal investigation. Whether or not these items may impact an auditor’s work would be inappropriate for the OAG to comment on.”

He added that the AG’s Office and the Auditor’s Office “have very separate and distinct roles and respective authorities,” and the AG’s Office “fully collaborates with any agency as long as it doesn’t compromise its very critical law enforcement authority and responsibility.”

Johnson’s statement also noted that the MLK Commission requested a waiver for the audits, essentially asking to skip them. Johnson denied that request, saying it’s important to complete all of the past-due audits for the commission to give commissioners, managers and the public a clear view of its financial picture.

“We can’t allow public entities to forgo audits because they’ve lost financial documents, or even because former staff members are under investigation,” Johnson said. “The audit process is a basic tenet of government that helps shed light on how taxpayer dollars are spent. Audits become even more important when wrongdoing is discovered.”

Further, he said “an audit without documentation isn’t exactly helpful either.”

Johnson said he was looking forward to “working with the commission and the attorney general to bring this process to a close” and stands ready to “help the Attorney General’s Office in any way with the ongoing criminal case if needed.”

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