Gov. Susana Martinez’s latest two nominees for the The University of New Mexico Board of Regents will not take office because neither received a confirmation hearing from the Senate Rules Committee during the recently concluded 60-day legislative session.
That means Regents Jack Fortner and Bradley Hosmer, whose terms were to expire in December, could continue to serve until at least next year’s legislative session.
“I’m totally disappointed,” said Alex Romero, president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce and one of the nominees that Martinez announced for a regent post earlier this year. “I was looking forward to serving in that capacity and honored that the governor would have nominated and appointed me.”
John Ryan, the other nominee and a former Republican state senator, said the Rules Committee did not weigh the importance of various boards and commissions when holding confirmation hearings.
“It feels like the committee did not make it a priority,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with our qualifications. … When you have universities that are waiting for new regents to come on board, you ought to make it a priority.”
Martinez’s nominees for some low-profile positions, such as the State Land Trusts Advisory Board, received hearings from the Senate Rules Committee, which vets the governor’s nominees and then sends on their nominations to the full Senate for a vote.
The Rules Committee had some 100 nominees to consider this session, and midway through committee staffers said it was unlikely that even half would get a hearing.
Martinez’s administration charged that Sen. Linda Lopez, a Democrat from Albuquerque who chairs the Rules Committee, was deliberately slowing down the process.
Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for Martinez, said in an email Monday that the Senate “didn’t want to confirm regents because they want to control them.” He also said Lopez “heard more ceremonial memorials than confirmations.”
But Gov. Martinez added to the delay when it came to Romero’s nomination as a UNM regent. The governor belatedly selected him in February after concluding that her first choice was ineligible to serve.
Martinez initially selected Ryan and former Speaker of the House Don Tripp, a Republican from Socorro, for the UNM regent seats. Tripp withdrew after he and Martinez found that the state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being appointed as a regent during a legislative term.
Tripp ran for re-election to the Legislature last November and won another two-year term. Then he resigned in January because Democrats had won back control of the House.
Lopez said the legislative session ended before she had time to schedule a hearing for either UNM regent nominee.
In addition, her committee did not hold hearings for two of Martinez’s regent nominees at New Mexico State University. One of them, Margie Vela of Las Cruces, will not be able to serve because she is a newcomer. Mike Cheney, the other nominee at NMSU, is a sitting regent so he can continue on the governing board at least until his reconfirmation hearing.
“We did not have a chance to get to them,” Lopez said.
But Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said there was no reason the committee should not have scheduled hearings for many of these regent nominees.
“I thought we were either wasting time or playing political games to not appoint those regents,” Moores said. “We had plenty of time. We could have not heard some of those memorials and other bills that [Lopez] had control of in terms of scheduling.”
Assuming Fortner and Hosmer are willing to stay on, UNM will continue with a full board of seven regents. But if either resigns, it could leave a leadership gap for the university, which is bracing for budget cuts and searching for a president.
Robert Frank resigned late last year as UNM’s president in an acrimonious parting with the regents. Frank maintains his annual salary of $350,000 through May, then will move into a new tenured professorship created for him at UNM’s Center for Innovation in Health and Education. That job will pay him $190,000 a year.
The regents have appointed Chaouki Abdallah, provost and executive vice president for academics, as acting president.
Another school will be without a regent because Gov. Martinez did not even nominate someone to fill a long-vacant seat once held by Donald Martinez at Northern New Mexico College in Española. That seat will remain empty for at least another year, even though Gov. Martinez had promised to fill it. This might leave the remaining four members in a predicament if they deadlock on any issues.
Nor did the Senate Rules Committee arrange a hearing for Joshua Martinez, the governor’s nominee for the student regent at Northern New Mexico College. The committee heard and approved the reappointment of Rosario “Chayo” Garcia as a member of that college’s board of regents. She has agreed to serve another six-year term
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or email@example.com