Gary Bland may be taking — and may or may not deserve — a lot of heat for his role in the state’s investment scandal. But he also deserves credit for standing up against shenanigans in the state’s housing authority system.
That’s the conclusion the Albuquerque Journal’s Thomas Cole drew in an article published Saturday in which he wrote that Bland “kept the public light shining on the (Region III Housing Authority) when others would have preferred it be turned off.”
I’ve covered the housing authority scandal since the beginning — writing my first article on it about two weeks before Cole wrote his in early 2006 — and I’ve witnessed the same thing.
Many will say the State Investment Council (SIC) and Bland haven’t gone far enough in taking on people tied to the housing authority scandal. Some will point out the fact that the chairman of the state Democratic Party works for the law firm the SIC hired to try to recover bond money lost when most of the system collapsed in 2006.
Regardless, Bland has taken some strong action despite pressure from powerful people. His office declared Region III in default on $5 million in bonds in 2006, declining a request for an extension because Region III wouldn’t provide requested financial info.
Then the SIC started an investigation. The agency presented preliminary findings about the widespread misuse of bond money to the Legislative Finance Committee in August 2006.
From the Journal:
“Those findings were the beginning of the end at the housing agency. (Former Region III Director Vincent ‘Smiley’) Gallegos resigned the same day they were presented to the LFC.
“But some legislators — including pals of Gallegos from his days in the Legislature — didn’t take kindly to the work of Bland’s office. Gallegos’ defense became their talking points.
“Some insisted the housing authority would have been able to repay the bonds if just given more time by the State Investment Council. We know today that never would have happened.
“At the LFC meeting, House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, chided Bland for how his office had contracted the accountants and lawyers to review the housing agency.”
Gallegos is a former House member, and he and Lujan are old pals. After Gallegos left office, he became a lobbyist and spent a lot of time in Lujan’s office during legislative sessions.
In addition to the SIC suing Gallegos and another former Region III official to try to recover the lost bond money, Bland’s office forwarded its probe to prosecutors, who recently indicted Gallegos and others.
All that is evidence, Cole writes, that Bland “did right” in the case of the housing authority scandal. I think it’s fair to say that, without the work of Bland and the SIC, we wouldn’t know the full extent of the misuse of public money in the housing authority system.