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County clerk candidates exchange barbs

Bernalillo County Clerk candidate Roman Montoya this week challenged the way rival candidate Linda Stover operated the New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation Corp.

MONTOYA: Held posts in Rio Rancho, Albuquerque

MONTOYA: Held posts in Rio Rancho, Albuquerque

Stover, who for more than 30 years served in various positions, including assistant director, executive director and board member of the corporation, “used taxpayer dollars to benefit herself and her political allies – once giving a $107,000 loan to her own accountant that was meant for low-income farmers and ranchers,” according to a Montoya campaign statement.

The New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation Corp., and others around the country, were created with taxpayer funds during the Great Depression to provide loans for the benefit of low-income rural residents and farmers.

In 1998, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman asked the USDA, which oversees rural rehabilitation programs, to take a look at possible irregularities in the state corporation. The department responded that the corporation was in compliance with federal law.

STOVER: At state agency for over 30 years

STOVER: At state agency for over 30 years

The corporation in 1999 changed its bylaws to allow loans to employees, officers and directors, most of whom are family members. It is unclear if any family members received corporation loans.

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“Trust and integrity matter,” Montoya told the Journal. “Voters deserve the truth, and Linda Stover hasn’t been honest and forthcoming about her role in a questionable organization.”

Both Montoya and Stover are Democrats. The winner of the primary election will face off against the sole Republican candidate, Maryellen Ortega-Saenz.

Stover responded Monday to Montoya’s allegations, saying “We were audited by the IRS for over a year and received a clean bill of health.” She added that there “was not a loan to our accountant and there has never been a loan to myself or any family member associated with New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation.”

Journal investigative reporter Thomas Cole in 1998 wrote: “Former state Auditor Max R. Sanchez was the accountant for the New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation Corp. in 1994. That same year, Saninvesco – a partnership involving Sanchez – borrowed $107,000 from the corporation to help Saninvesco purchase nearly 58 acres of rich agricultural land.”

Stover said the loan was not made to Max Sanchez or Saninvesco, but to Sanchez’s brother, a low-income farmer.

“That was confirmed through the IRS audit,” she claimed.

Stover also shot back, questioning Montoya’s previous service as the chief deputy city clerk for Albuquerque from 2000 to 2004, and the Rio Rancho city clerk from 2004 to 2012, saying he was “forced to resign” from both jobs under suspicious circumstances.

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Montoya said he resigned from the city position because of a “personality conflict” between himself and the then-Albuquerque city clerk, whom Montoya called “a political appointee with no knowledge of management or elections,” which caused friction between the two during the 2003 election cycle.

Montoya had served under three full-time and one interim clerks in his four years with the Albuquerque City Clerk’s Office. Three of those people gave him letters of recommendation, he said, which helped him get selected for the job in Rio Rancho. He left that job voluntarily after being offered the position of deputy Bernalillo County clerk under current County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

“Rio Rancho wanted to keep me, but I wanted to advance in my career,” Montoya said. “I was planning to eventually run for Bernalillo County clerk and this was my best opportunity.”

A memorandum dated May 25, 2012, and released by the Rio Rancho City Clerk’s Office on Monday, confirmed Montoya’s resignation because he had accepted a job with the Bernalillo County clerk and saw this new position as his way to “further my career aspirations.”

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