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Crowded field seeking treasurer’s post

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

A diverse mix of candidates awaits Democrats choosing their nominee for Bernalillo County treasurer.

Patrick Padilla – whose long political career has withstood an indictment, a harassment investigation and other dustups – wants his old office back.

His successor as treasurer, Manny Ortiz, wants to keep the job, even as he fights county commissioners in court over the legal bills he rang up battling a recall campaign.

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And two newcomers to elected office, Nancy Marie Bearce and Christopher J. Sanchez, are asking voters to support a change in direction entirely. Bearce is a neighborhood leader with a background in government, and Sanchez is the accounting manager in the treasurer’s office.

Whoever emerges out of the four-person race will face the winner of the Republican nomination, either Kim Hillard or Christopher Mario Romero. Primary election day is June 7.

Voters will make their choice as Bernalillo County recovers from an investment meltdown that ultimately cost $17 million. The state Securities Division and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission each launched investigations.

Padilla and Ortiz – either together or separately – have overseen the county’s investment strategy for about a decade. They both say they objected to the investment sell-off and that their own approach would have worked in the long run.

County commissioners, in turn, were critical of how the county’s money had been invested and say the sale was necessary to avoid the possibility of even steeper losses and to ensure the county had enough money in the bank to pay its bills.

In any case, Bearce and Sanchez have made the chance for new leadership a centerpiece of their campaigns.

“I have dedicated myself to public service,” Bearce said in an interview. “… I think I can deliver a fresh, new, proactive agenda for that office.”

Bearce has worked in the state’s General Services and Human Services departments. She is also a La Mesa neighborhood leader.

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Sanchez, for his part, said he offers the ideal combination of experience and a fresh approach. He has worked in the treasurer’s office since 2009, giving him, he says, an up-close look at the need for good leadership.

“I’m not old-school politics,” Sanchez said. “I’m running on a platform of integrity before politics.”

Office experience

Ortiz, for his part, said he’s helped improve the office and should be re-elected to continue that work. A recent audit, he said, turned up no negative findings.

“Really, I feel the office is running pretty smooth right now,” he said.

Ortiz has clashed at times with the County Commission, which adopted a vote of no confidence in his work during the investment dispute. He also is suing a handful of county officials, including county commissioners, alleging they should have paid for the attorney he hired to defend himself against an unsuccessful recall campaign.

In court, Ortiz has accused county officials of discriminating against him because he’s Hispanic and conspiring to force him out of office. But he said the litigation won’t keep him from working cooperatively with the commission.

“They’re completely off base” in some ways, Ortiz said, but “whether I like them or not, we have to work together, and I have been trying to work together with them very diligently.”

Ortiz and Padilla worked together for years – first when Ortiz served as investment officer while Padilla was treasurer for eight years. The two switched jobs when Ortiz won office, and Padilla spent about a year as investment officer under Ortiz. Padilla could not seek re-election at that time because state law allows county officials to serve only two consecutive terms.

Padilla has the longest record in the public eye.

He served as county treasurer from 1989-02 and from 2005-12. But he said he wants to run again because he’s the only treasurer who’s ever carried out “innovative ideas” that shake up the status quo, such as allowing people to make property tax payments every month rather than in big lump sums.

“I’ve been there,” Padilla said. “I’ve done the job. Every time I left office almost everything I’ve implemented has either fallen off to the side or not been continued.”

He has new ideas, too, including a proposal to reduce people’s taxes if they’ve lived in their home for more than 15 years. That would take a constitutional amendment approved by the state Legislature and the public.

‘A bogus charge’

Padilla is familiar with controversy – much of it unjustified, he says.

In 1993, Padilla and another county worker were accused in indictments of falsifying investment records and misusing public money. A jury acquitted them of all charges after a trial in 1994.

Padilla said the case was politically motivated and that he later won a settlement against an accounting firm involved in the allegations.

“It’s sad that anybody would bring up stuff that far back,” Padilla said in a recent interview. “It was a bogus charge.”

In 2006, he was charged with drunken driving, but his blood alcohol content was below 0.08 percent, the presumed level of intoxication. The charge was later dismissed, and Padilla entered a guilty plea to reckless driving.

The DWI allegation, like the indictment, was a “bogus charge,” Padilla said.

In 2012, Padilla faced an investigation into harassment allegations.

An investigator found there was evidence to support an employee’s allegation of verbal and environmental harassment because of witness testimony about “inappropriate, unprofessional comments in the workplace.”

Padilla was accused of referring to some employees as “stupida”; mimicking a “Native American accent” as a joke with another employee; and making negative comments about employees who didn’t go to his end-of-the-summer party, according to the 47-page report.

Padilla said he took a sensitivity class.

“It was joking,” he said of the allegations. “I try to be the kind of treasurer that goes around to the employees to tell them ‘good morning’ ” and interact with the staff and public.”

Gift documents

The state investigation into county investments didn’t result in action against Padilla or Ortiz. The state did pursue penalties from some brokers and companies that worked with the county.

As for the SEC, in April, it ordered the county to turn over any documents on gifts or donations made by investment brokers to Ortiz and Padilla or any of their representatives – among other records the agency is seeking.

The subpoena doesn’t make it clear who, if anyone at the county, is the target of the investigation.

Padilla and Ortiz have denied doing anything wrong.


Bios and questions for Bernalillo County treasurer candidates

Democratic candidates

Manny Ortiz

ORTIZ

ORTIZ

POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

AGE: 73

EDUCATION: B.A., business administration, Western New Mexico University, 1964.

OCCUPATION: Accountant/tax preparer, 37 years. Bernalillo County treasurer, 2013-present; Bernalillo County investment officer, 2005-12; owner, Manny Ortiz PC, accounting and tax firm in Albuquerque, 1980-present; qualifying real estate broker since 1988; Small Business Administration officer, 1971-79; former U.S. Treasury agent, 1965-71.

FAMILY: Two children.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Bernalillo County treasurer, 2013-present.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Former IRS agent and Small Business Administration loan servicing officer and consultant, current business owner and Bernalillo County treasurer.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a lifelong resident of New Mexico, commitment to helping people and giving back to the community is dear to my heart. Assisting small business owners achieve growth, profitability through financial and resource management.

Christopher J. Sanchez

SANCHEZ

SANCHEZ

POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

AGE: 46

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in finance from New Mexico State University, 1998.

OCCUPATION: Accounting manager, Bernalillo County Treasurer’s Office, 2014-present; assistant accounting manager, county treasurer’s office, 2013-14; investment banking officer, county treasurer’s office, 2011-13; senior fiscal processor, county treasurer’s office, 2009-11; self-employed, Desert Sun Enterprises Inc. in construction industry, 2004-09; loan officer, Bank of America, 1999-2003; U.S. Army, 1992-96.

FAMILY: Spouse, Adrienne Yanez Sanchez; 7-year-old daughter.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Worked for the Department of Defense from 1992-96, state of New Mexico, NMSU, 1996-98; and Bernalillo County from 2009-present.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: As Bernalillo County Treasurer’s Office assistant accounting manager and accounting manager, my team has had no findings or material weaknesses from an accounting standpoint.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am proud to serve on two boards: the South Valley Economic Development Center Board and as treasurer/secretary of Nuestros Valores Charter School Board. I am also a member of Government Finance Officers Association.

Patrick J. Padilla

PADILLA

PADILLA

POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Tijeras

AGE: 65

EDUCATION: Graduate, Rio Grande High School, 1968; attended University of Albuquerque, 1969-70; Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, major in accounting, minor in data processing, early 1970s; University of New Mexico Continuing Education; Certified Public Administration Finance Master, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2012.

OCCUPATION: Accountant, CEO, Padilla & Company, 1973-present.

FAMILY: Wife, Cheryl Tucker de-Padilla; seven children

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Bernalillo County treasurer, 1989-92, 2005-12; Bernalillo County Commission, 1981-84; chairman, Bernalillo County Commission, 1983-84; State Director National Association of County Collectors, Treasurers, and Finance Officers; twice elected president of National Association of Hispanic County Elected Officials; twice elected president of New Mexico Association of Counties; National Association of Counties Board of Directors.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Allowing property tax payers to pay property taxes monthly. Payments accepted at banks, on line by E-check and credit card. Implemented property tax calculator. Saved residents time by allowing payments for incarcerated individuals at treasurer’s office.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Father, grandfather of 17. Successful businessman.

Nancy Marie Bearce

BEARCE

BEARCE

POLITICAL PARTY: Democrat

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

AGE: 58

EDUCATION: B.A., University of Louisville, 1980

OCCUPATION: Client advisor/employee benefits/licensed health insurance agent, 2014-16, Poms & Associates Insurance Broker; medical administration specialist, 2013, contractor, Kirtland Air Force Base Medical Group; interim executive director, 2012-13, Horizons of NM; chief operating officer, 2011-12; NM Abilities; State of NM/General Services Department/ Risk Management Division: Employee Benefits Bureau chief, 2011-07; Benefits Analyst/Quality Assurance, 2004-07; state of NM/Human Services Department/Medicaid/Quality Assurance Bureau: Program Analyst, 2002-04; benefits manager, 1999-2002, APS; benefits administrator, 1996-99, Wm. Mercer/ADP; employee benefit specialist/estates and bequests assistant, 1988-96, Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation.

FAMILY: Spouse, Charles Bennett

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: State of New Mexico General Services Department Risk Management Division: Employee Benefits Bureau chief, 2011-07, and benefits analyst/quality assurance, 2004-07; New Mexico Human Services Department Medicaid Quality Assurance Bureau, program analyst, 2002-04; Democratic Party of Bernalillo County, precinct chair, State Central Committee member, Ward 19B secretary/treasurer; volunteer on various political campaigns; graduate of 2014 class of EMERGE.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Operating and growing a nonprofit that hired people with disabilities to fill state professional contracts; successfully managed two of the largest public employee health insurance programs, Albuquerque Public Schools and state of New Mexico.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: 21-year marriage; winning 2½-year-long land-use case denying liquor sales at CVS on Central and teaching that method to other groups. Rebranding of Albuquerque’s International District. Stopped 20 years of smoking, 1999.

Two years ago, the County Commission adopted a new investment policy calling for the commission and treasurer to jointly appoint an investment officer and to agree on which brokers are allowed to do business with the county. It also set requirements for how much cash must be available on short notice. Do you agree or disagree with that policy, and why?

ORTIZ: I agree with the current policy except that the policy mandates too much liquidity in the bank savings accounts. We work hand in hand with the county finance department to better manager the county’s cash flow needs.

SANCHEZ: I strongly agree with and am currently supporting the new investment policy. The previous investment policy lacked checks and balances and was much too lenient. Additionally, liquidity limits are better defined under the new investment policy.

PADILLA: I partially agree, however, a paid full-time investment officer is not needed. What is needed is a daily cash flow projection agreed upon by treasurer and finance department ensuring sufficient funds are available to operate the county.

BEARCE: I agree with that strategy because of the complete failure of current and past administrations to adequately manage taxpayer funds in a responsible way. I will provide fresh, competent and proactive leadership for the office.

Please describe your preferred investment strategy for the county.

BEARCE: Work closely with the investment committee and bring the best strategists onboard to provide sustainable funding sources for the public services and community programs that our families can take advantage of for years to come.

ORTIZ: Always safety, liquidity and yield.

PADILLA: As the only certified Public Funds Investment Manager, I apply the prudent person rule: Safety, Liquidity, and Yield. Diligently monitoring investments ensuring the best yield for Bernalillo County, compliant with all rules and regulations.

SANCHEZ: My preferred investment strategy is safety, liquidity then yield. While return on investment is important, securing our tax dollars and maintaining sufficient balances to address county cash needs is paramount.

State auditors harshly criticized the county treasurer’s office in reports issued in 2013 and 2014. What steps would you take to avoid negative audit findings in the future?

BEARCE: Competent leadership is the difference. As manager for our state employee health care pool of $400 million per year, I led a transparent, honest and accountable process for stakeholders while passing audits each and every time.

ORTIZ: We have already taken the necessary steps to avoid negative audit findings. We had no findings in this year’s internal audit conducted by REDW.

PADILLA: When I took office in 2005 there were 12 audit findings. When I left in 2012 there were no findings. Working closely with the auditors we can resolve and eliminate all findings.

SANCHEZ: I would always follow state statute, the county investment policy, and the county code of conduct. I would not use county business partners to benefit my personal business activities.

What would be your top priorities as treasurer?

BEARCE: Sound fiscal management to build a prosperous community; modernizing online transactions to make government interactions easier and faster; and new programs like returning unclaimed money and helping with financial literacy and tax preparation.

ORTIZ: To provide exceptional collection services to the taxpayers in terms of efficiency, timeliness and accountability while providing the highest level of customer service and satisfaction.

PADILLA: A Longevity Property Tax Credit Plan, a 5 percent per year tax relief, maximum 25 percent, for homeowners in same home 15 years. Giving back to those who don’t receive the perks of new developments.

SANCHEZ: I want to make the Treasurer’s Office more efficient. The department needs to be more responsive to taxpayer needs. Modern technologies must be implemented and the Treasurer’s Office must work strategically with other county departments.

Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

BEARCE: No.

ORTIZ: No.

PADILLA: Yes, liens have been satisfied.

SANCHEZ: No. I have never had a state or federal tax lien imposed on the corporation I owned myself.

Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

BEARCE: No.

ORTIZ: No.

PADILLA: Yes, bankruptcy has been resolved.

SANCHEZ: No. I have never been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding.

Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

BEARCE: No.

ORTIZ: No.

PADILLA: I have never been convicted of drunken driving, a misdemeanor, a felony, or any crime. I was unjustly accused of improprieties in the treasurer’s office during my second term and was acquitted on all charges. (Editor’s Note: Padilla was charged with drunken driving in 2006, and the charge was later dismissed.)

SANCHEZ: I was charged with and pleaded guilty to one DUI over 14 years ago. This experience changed my life and outlook on driving under the influence. It made me more aware of the perils of this type of conduct. The classes I was put through made me aware of how DUI affects other lives not just my own.

Republican candidates

Editor’s Note: Candidate Christopher Mario Romero did not respond to a Journal questionnaire or provide any biographical information.

Kim K. Hillard

HILLARD

HILLARD

POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

AGE: 69

EDUCATION: B.S., data management, College of Santa Fe, 1987

OCCUPATION: Retired. City of Albuquerque, System Administrator II; Technical Vocational Institute, data base programmer; several jobs as a contractor to the Department of Defense, as well as three to the Bureau of Indian Affairs; U.S. Air Force, Last Title: Central Database Administrator, career of 24.5 years.

FAMILY: Wife, Margie; five children

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: First vice chairman, Republican Party of Bernalillo County, 2014-16; Republican Party of Bernalillo County Executive Committee, 2013-16; Republican Ward 24 Officer 1998-2014; worked on multiple successful elections of Republican candidates and a few that were not successful; USAF, 1967-92.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Successfully studying policies and changing them by manual processes and/or designing and implementing computer code to alter the length of work processes up to 95 percent savings in processing times.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: 1. My best decision was submitting to my God and Lord, Yeshua. 2. Asking the woman I have been married to for 49 years to be my bride was my second best decision.

Two years ago, the County Commission adopted a new investment policy calling for the commission and treasurer to jointly appoint an investment officer and to agree on which brokers are allowed to do business with the county. It also set requirements for how much cash must be available on short notice. Do you agree or disagree with that policy, and why?

HILLARD: I understand the reasons behind this policy. Confidence was lost in the office. I feel that it adds an additional layer of bureaucracy but would abide by it. When confidence in the office is restored, then the policy should be reviewed.

Please describe your preferred investment strategy for the county.

HILLARD: The county needs a balanced portfolio to allow for the rises and falls of the market. A reasonable amount of the portfolio should have high liquidity in case of a sudden market meltdown. Balance is the key by hiring a well-qualified investment officer.

State auditors harshly criticized the county treasurer’s office in reports issued in 2013 and 2014. What steps would you take to avoid negative audit findings in the future?

HILLARD: The treasurer’s office should study the audit findings and implement changes that do not require changes in the law. If they do require changes in the law, then lobby to get those changes. I believe in open and transparent government. External audits on a periodic basis would help keep the checks and balances within the office.

What would be your top priorities as treasurer?

HILLARD: My top priority would be to restore confidence in the office. The employees have earned the privilege to be proud of their work in this office. The taxpayers have bought the right to have confidence in the office.

Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

HILLARD: No.

Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

HILLARD: No.

Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

HILLARD: Two speeding tickets in N.M. One in 1973 and another later, but I don’t remember the year.

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