ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State Auditor Tim Keller on Monday called on the Department of Finance and Administration to take financial control of the troubled Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission, and said his office was suspending its own investigation into the commission.
“The state of turmoil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission places their important work in jeopardy,” Keller said in a letter addressed to the MLK commissioners and acting chairwoman Karen Montoya. “The best way to ensure the viability of the commission is for another state agency to temporarily assume its financial operations.”
Last week, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office served search warrants and combed through the offices of the MLK State Commission, located at Expo New Mexico.
Investigators seized computers, bank statements, paycheck and payroll reports, travel and employee records, and other financial documents. Also served with a warrant was commission executive director Kimberly Greene and a bank where she had an account.
According to the warrants, Greene may have funneled $16,000 for her own use from eRead, a nonprofit charged with disbursing funds on behalf of the commission, in addition to forging an invoice from eRead for more than $51,700.
Montoya on Monday confirmed that she was in receipt of the letter and said the item will be added to the commission’s special board meeting agenda scheduled for 2 p.m. today. She said the DFA was not obligated to accept financial control of the MLK State Commission.
The Office of the State Auditor has had an open and ongoing investigation into the MLK Commission because it has not submitted an audit in more than two years. However, in his letter, Keller said, “We are taking the prudent step of suspending the audit process and calling on the Department of Finance and Administration to run the day-to-day operations of the Commission until the smoke clears.”
Justine Freeman, a spokeswoman in Keller’s office, said the suspension of the audit was made necessary because the Attorney General’s Office had seized computers and financial documents from the MLK State Commission. “So, instead of doing our own investigation, we will refer our material to their investigation.”
Further, she said, this was the “best possible route to progressing toward achieving auditable financial statements, which would provide a transparent accounting of public funds.”
The investigation was triggered when the executive director of eRead approached MLK commissioner Tim Eichenberg earlier this month with documents and expressed concerns about financial misconduct. Eichenberg shared the documents with Montoya, and she contacted the AG’s Office and requested an investigation.
The mission of the MLK Commission is to promote King’s philosophy of nonviolence, unity and opportunity for all. The commission also conducts the MLK Annual Youth Conference and Youth Leadership Conference, and organizes events around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It has an annual budget of $337,000.