I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Richardson may be deposed in housing authority case
Gov. Bill Richardson may be asked to share, under oath, whether he knows anything about the scandal in the state’s housing authority system that culminated in 2006 with the default of $5 million in bonds owed to the State Investment Council (SIC).
The SIC is suing two men – former Region III Housing Authority Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos, and Robert Strumor, who was Region III’s bond counsel – to try to recover some of the lost bond money. The SIC has accused Strumor, once one of the most prominent bond attorneys in the state, of misrepresenting the facts as he sold the SIC on the bond proposal and negotiated the terms of those bonds.
As he fights to clear his name, Strumor has filed notice that he intends to take the videotaped deposition from Richardson on Dec. 2 at the office of his attorney, Daymon Ely of Albuquerque.
Strumor declined to answer questions about why he wants to depose Richardson, and his attorney has not returned a phone call seeking comment.
Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos has not responded to an e-mail seeking comment on the situation. The governor could ask a judge to quash or delay the deposition, but he has not filed such a request with the court.
It is not known publicly if Richardson, who heads the SIC, knows anything that could shed light on how and why the housing authority imploded. Smiley Gallegos, the man at the center of the controversy, was hired to head Region III during the administration of former Gov. Gary Johnson, not Richardson. Although both Gallegos and Strumor have given campaign contributions to Richardson, the governor has not been directly tied to the housing authority situation, at least publicly.
Gallegos and Strumor are two of the four men under criminal indictment in the housing authority scandal. Both have pleaded not guilty to the felony charges against them, which include fraud and money laundering. The criminal case is pending.
The SIC’s civil lawsuit is separate. Asked about it, Strumor would only say that he “vigorously denies and disputes the state’s allegations” against him, which he said “could win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction because they have no basis in fact.”
Much of the state’s housing authority system collapsed in 2006 when Region III defaulted on the bonds. Though the bond money was only supposed to be spent on housing, much of it was spent to prop up the administration and operations of Region III and some other housing authorities across the state. In addition to the SIC lawsuit and the criminal charges brought by the attorney general, the state auditor has released a report that he said indicates the housing authorities were “a colossal failure.”
More depositions, a counterclaim
In addition to his attempt to depose Richardson, Strumor has filed notice that he intends to take the depositions of former State Investment Officer Gary Bland on Dec. 2 and current interim State Investment Officer Robert Jacksha on Dec. 1.
Jacksha took over at the SIC last month after Bland resigned in the midst of a separate investment scandal that is the subject of criminal investigations in New Mexico, New York and elsewhere. Jacksha worked for the SIC at the time of the bond deals. Bland was the chief investment officer at the time.
In response to the SIC lawsuit, Strumor has filed a counterclaim alleging that the SIC failed “to exercise reasonable care selecting and purchasing bonds which are at issue in this case.” Strumor says he has incurred attorneys’ fees and been exposed to liability as a result of the SIC’s actions. He’s asking for damages “which include but are not limited to indemnity for all expenses incurred and or judgment against them.”
Strumor has already succeeded in getting some of the SIC’s charges against him tossed out. What remains is a single allegation that he provided “negligent misrepresentation” through marketing and sales services he gave to Region III.
Charles Wollmann, the SIC’s spokesman, declined to discuss the case.
“Since it’s pending litigation, it’s really not appropriate for us to discuss it at this juncture,” he said.