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Spaceport America board fires executive director

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The CEO of New Mexico’s commercial spacecraft launch facility facing accusation he pressured a former chief financial officer to circumvent internal financial controls was ousted Friday.

Dan Hicks was terminated as Spaceport America’s executive director and CEO with little public discussion at a Friday virtual meeting, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

The governing board of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority met in a special session via video conference. The firing comes as Hicks has been on administrative leave since June while allegations of mismanagement and abuse of authority have been under investigation by the New Mexico State Auditor and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

Hicks did not immediately return phone messages.

The McHard Accounting Consulting firm, a forensic accounting firm based in Albuquerque, conducted an investigation, which was then referred to the state auditor. State Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes informed a state legislative committee this summer the allegations included potential criminal activity.

Meanwhile, an unrelated lawsuit by former spaceport space systems engineer Karen Barker alleges Hicks and other spaceport staff engaged in gender-based discrimination and retaliation against her.

Dan Hicks was named Spaceport America CEO in 2016.

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