University of New Mexico’s two longest-serving regents will stick around longer still – perhaps long enough to help make critical decisions about the school’s next president and its budget.
Despite their expired terms, Jack Fortner and Bradley Hosmer will remain on the school’s seven-member governing council because the state Senate never conducted confirmation hearings for the replacements nominated by Gov. Susana Martinez.
Fortner already has served three consecutive six-year terms, having been appointed by three different governors, including Martinez. Hosmer joined the board in 2011.
Martinez nominated Alex Romero, CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, and John Ryan, a lobbyist and former state senator, to succeed them, and she said after the contentious legislative session that the Senate “actively defied the constitution” by not holding their confirmation hearings.
Her spokesman decried the inaction as politically motivated. But state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and chairwoman of the Senate committee charged with conducting the hearings, denied that charge late last week.
Even if their scheduled terms are over, regents can remain in place until their successors are confirmed or the serving regents resign – and both Fortner and Hosmer say they are willing to continue. Their de facto extension comes as the university searches for its new president and crafts a 2018 budget amid reduced state funding. The combined budget of the main campus and Health Sciences Center is nearly $2.9 billion.
Given the important decisions looming, Fortner said he brings helpful experience and “continuity.” He said he wants to help decide on the next president, calling it “the most important thing that the regent does.”
Regent president Rob Doughty said earlier this month that UNM should announce finalists and conduct on-campus interviews by the end of the semester.
Hosmer said he has no plans to resign and will stay on until the Senate confirms his replacement – even if that means another year. “I’m on duty. I agreed to this task and so I’m on it until relieved,” he said.
While the governor has signaled she plans to call a special session, she has not done so, and it’s unclear whether it would include confirmation hearings.
Romero said the day before the session ended that nobody ever explained directly to him why he did not get a confirmation hearing. He called the situation disappointing.
“I feel caught in the middle, and honestly it doesn’t feel good,” he said.
The Senate also never held confirmation hearings for Thomas Clifford and student regent Garrett Adcock, sitting UNM regents who began serving prior to Senate confirmation in order to fill board vacancies. Martinez’s spokesman Michael Lonergan said the governor intends to keep them in place as “recess appointees” – board members added while the Legislature is out of session.