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NMMI regents cut off alumni group again

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

For the second time in three years, the New Mexico Military Institute’s Board of Regents has notified its alumni association that it is terminating the agreement that allowed the 51-year-old association to raise funds on behalf of the institute and to use NMMI’s trademarks and logos.

Regents voted last month to terminate a longstanding memorandum of agreement with the NMMI Alumni Association.

In April, a district court judge issued several key findings in a lawsuit the regents filed against the association two years ago.

Those were among the latest moves in an acrimonious split between the institute and the association.

The regents first issued a letter to the alumni association in April 2013, saying the association had failed to maintain an adequate accounting system and to provide a timely annual audit to NMMI.

A month later, NMMI officials locked the NMMI Alumni Association’s on-campus office and directed its employees to leave the premises. The regents also formed a new Office of Alumni Relations.

Shortly afterward, the alumni association opened an office in the Sally Port Inn just north of the NMMI campus, and it has continued giving out scholarships to NMMI cadets, association Executive Director Dan Whitfield said Monday.

The association has continued raising funds, he said, but those efforts have been stymied by the controversy.

In June 2013, the regents filed suit against the association, saying its officers had repeatedly “failed to generate or provide the most basic monthly accounting statements showing the status of its financial affairs” and that the nonprofit “is no longer able to carry out its purpose” or “manage its corporate affairs in accordance with the corporation’s governing documents.”

The suit – still pending in the 5th Judicial District Court – asks the court to freeze the association’s accounts, transfer about $5.2 million in assets to the NMMI Foundation Inc., provide an accounting of the funds it has collected and to stop using NMMI’s name, trademarks or logos.

In a May 18 letter to the Journal explaining the regents’ latest move to terminate the agreement, board President Jesse Eckel said, in part, “the NMMI Foundation is better suited and capable of managing all unrestricted, temporarily restricted and restricted donated funds. Centralized management of these funds will reduce overhead, improve efficiency and provide for more open accounting. Ultimately it will give visibility to donors and NMMI that funds are used in accordance with the donors’ wishes and intent.”

In April, 5th Judicial District Judge Jane Shuler-Gray issued several findings in the lawsuit, including:

• Because the alumni association’s bookkeeping was proper and audited – and taxes were filed on time – NMMI’s termination of its agreement with the association in 2013 was improper.

• That, contrary to the alumni association’s claims, the association is an agent of NMMI and exists to support, promote and benefit NMMI.

• And that the funds in the association’s custody are for the exclusive benefit of NMMI.

Colleen Cole-Velasquez, director of marketing and communications for NMMI, said in a statement last week, “While it is unfortunate that NMMI was compelled to seek judicial intervention to force the association to recognize NMMI’s ownership of the funds currently held by the association as NMMI’s fiduciary, NMMI is pleased with the court’s ruling in its favor on this critical issue.”

“NMMI will continue to review the judge’s findings as it considers the best way to deal with alumni relations in the future,” Cole-Velasquez said.

A hearing in NMMI’s lawsuit against the alumni association is scheduled for June 11 in Carlsbad.

“I guess we’re all going to meet in court on the 11th of June and try to get the judge’s decision placed into a final status,” Whitfield said.

NMMI, established in Roswell in 1891, is a state-supported, coed high school and junior college that focuses on leadership, academics and character development in a military setting. The institute’s typical enrollment is about 1,000 students.

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