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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Senate Panel OKs Regent Nominees

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE Gov. Bill Richardson's nominees to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents told a Senate committee Monday that they would act independently despite having signed undated resignation letters for the governor.
    The Senate Rules Committee subsequently voted to support the four nominees for the UNM board. They are:
   
  • Jamie Koch, a Santa Fe businessman, former House member and key Richardson fund-raiser who resigned last week as chairman of the state Democratic Party;
       
  • Maria Griego-Raby, president of Contract Associates Inc. in Albuquerque and past president of the UNM Alumni Association;
       
  • Donald Salazar, a Santa Fe lawyer and president of the 1st Judicial District Bar Association;
       
  • Andrea Cook, a UNM graduate student in business administration.
        Their nominations now go to the full Senate for consideration.
        Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, cast the sole negative votes against the four UNM board of regents nominees.
        Adair has raised constitutional questions about Richardson having his appointees to university boards sign undated letters of resignation that Richardson could invoke at will.
        The state constitution says regents "shall not be removed except for incompetence, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."
        Richardson and Adair met privately Monday to discuss the constitutionality issues.
        "I want to abide totally by the Constitution," Richardson told reporters after the meeting, which the governor initiated. "I also want to hold regents accountable." He and Adair declined to comment further on their meeting but said they would have more discussion.
        Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, told Adair he should focus on the credentials of Richardson's appointees, not the constitutionality issues.
        "They've said they would be independent regents," Griego said.
        Adair also met Monday with Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque. Romero and Aragon also have expressed concerns that the undated resignation letters might be at odds with constitutional protections for university regents.