Lack of Transparency: Business as usual at State Land Office

The New Mexico Independent launched this week and not a moment too soon for a hard news hungry public. Digging for the story behind the story, the Indie’s Majorie Childress looked into how the controversy about how the N.M. State Land Office handles its development leases.

Land Office explains why it enters into no-bid deals that benefit developers

When Childress inquired how one might go about inspecting the eighteen short-term planning development leases mentioned in a recent Albuquerque Journal article, the following extraordinary exchange took place:

I was told by the two offices that in order to see the leases I’d have to send a written public request including the lease number and the name of the lessee. When I asked how I could get that information in order to make the request, I was told there was no way to isolate them from the almost 900 current Land Office leases. Stranahan couldn’t tell me who they were either, other than just a few developers that came to mind.

When I suggested to Stranahan that the method of selecting the developer for these cases lacks transparency and could lead to an appearance of impropriety given the campaign contributions made by many of these developers to Commissioner Lyons, he replied, “Most of these developers are successful, they all contribute to everybody, not just Pat Lyons. Here, the only issue that comes into play, the only issue that matters to us is who can make us the most money.”

So much for transparency. But that’s not all. Consider this choice nugget from Majorie’s story: 

I also asked (Land Office General Counsel Robert) Stranahan how they determine who the developer will be since there isn’t a requirement to put these short-term planning and development projects out to bid. He told me the Land Office decides based on the reputation and the track record of the developer.

Say again! Reputation and track record of the developer?

It would seem that Land Office’s apparatchiks, intent as they are to dispense more welfare to developers, believe that the public has a short memory when it comes to the Land Office’s own dismal track record in vetting the background and reputation of developers.

Remember when Stranahan’s boss, State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, was running for re-election in 2006 while boasting that he had landed “The World’s Largest Solar Energy Plant” on State Trust Land?

Then the Albuquerque Journal ran this “oops” story:
Solar Financier Has Shaky Past

Coco in Duke City Fix had something to say about all of that. (Note: The SLO press release has been removed from their site.)

But don’t get too hot and bothered by all this. Remember, Joe Monahan has reassured us that there really isn’t an ethics problem in N.M. state government.

(For more on the Land Office development deals, see Matt Brix in this previous post on Clearly NM.)

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