Thursday, June 11, 2009
State Official: CDR Probe Moves On
By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE The chairman of the New Mexico Finance Authority told legislators Wednesday that he has reason to believe the FBI has finished its investigation of contracts awarded in a $1.6 billion state bond deal and the results have been forwarded to higher-ups in the Department of Justice.
Steve Flance, the NMFA chairman, confirmed in a telephone interview that he updated legislators on the investigation that prompted Gov. Bill Richardson to withdraw from his commerce secretary nomination by President Barack Obama.
"My understanding from information I've received ... is that the FBI portion of the investigation has been completed," Flance said. The "information ... is moving on."
"I think we're all waiting to see what happens," Flance said, adding that his primary goal Wednesday was to assure lawmakers nobody currently at the Finance Authority is a target.
The FBI is thought to have completed most of its work weeks ago, but Flance was the first public official to address the investigation status with remarks to the interim Finance Authority Oversight Committee.
Typically, a case involving a high-ranking state official results in collaboration between the FBI and the local U.S. Attorney's Office, especially if grand jury subpoenas are issued.
Results would be forwarded to the Justice Department in Washington for review.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Albuquerque last week for meetings with Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and other top-level officials on U.S.-Mexico border security issues. Richardson did not participate in those meetings, and Holder reportedly declined to comment on the federal investigation.
The New Mexico Finance Authority has been part of the federal investigation after awarding a hefty contract with questionable procedures that included adding points and changing the initial rankings to California-based CDR Financial Inc.
CDR, which also was awarded a sole-source, no-bid escrow contract, contributed about $100,000 to Richardson's political committees around the time of the contract awards.
The contract award in 2004 was for CDR to advise the Finance Authority on the state $1.6 billion GRIP transportation bond program.
Among the former Finance Authority officials interviewed by the FBI is former NMFA Executive Director David Harris.
After CDR won the New Mexico business in 2004, CDR officials paid for dinner and Lakers basketball tickets in Los Angeles for Harris and former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino.
Richardson has said no one from his administration acted improperly.
"Personally, I don't think there's ever been any wrongdoing on the part of the NMFA," Flance told the Journal. "I do not believe, with the information I have, there was any current member of the board or staff that was a target of the investigation."
Flance said several Finance Authority board members, including himself, have been interviewed by the FBI during the past year, but no one from the organization has received a grand jury subpoena.