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Editorial: MLK panel in need of sunlight

With the important mission of promoting nonviolence, unity and opportunity for all, it’s disappointing the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission remains embroiled in controversy.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently said she’s not attending commission meetings until further notice because of questions about the setup and function of the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg says commission Executive Director Leonard Waites created the foundation in 2017 and placed his son, Nathan Waites, in charge. But Eichenberg says it’s unclear how much money has been donated to and disbursed by the foundation.

Leonard Waites says the foundation’s only role is to raise funds for the annual MLK Indoor Track Invitational and the foundation has never received money from the commission. He also says his son is an unpaid volunteer.

Eichenberg says if the foundation is the official fundraising arm of the commission, it’s subject to commission oversight. If a private entity, it’s in violation of the state’s anti-donation clause for apparently using commission telephones, computers and website.

The commission voted in March to hold a special session to address issues about the foundation, but that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, state Auditor Brian Col√≥n has criticized the commission for failing to remedy a number of shortcomings highlighted in audits as far back as 2015. And now Toulouse Oliver has walked away. All this after an embezzlement scandal rocked the commission in 2018.

State officials need to drill to the bottom of these issues and let the sunlight in so the commission can again promote King’s philosophy without a cloud hanging over it.

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.