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…
Adair says state court payments are ‘a colossal waste of money’
A lawsuit filed 22 years ago is still costing New Mexico money and one Senator wants to cut the cash. Sen. Rod Adair threw out the word ‘scam’ as he described the millions of dollars the state has paid in an ongoing lawsuit.
But the state Department of Health said Monday it is legally required to pay the plaintiff fees. And Peter Simonson of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said if Adair’s bills pass and become law, it would put the state in further legal trouble.
“If he (Sen. Adair) wants to avoid attorneys’ fees he’s got a strange way of going about it,” Simonson said.
At a press conference on Tuesday Adair, backed with supporters, said he would introduce a bill that would cut the nearly $5 million a year New Mexico is paying out in the Jackson vs. Ft. Stanton lawsuit.
Adair says lawyers on the other side of the suit are using the courts to draw out the case, and collecting the fees that go with it. “This is a colossal waste of money for the benefit of a few. If you take 100 voters I would say 91 or even more would say this is a scam,” Adair said.
He said when the lawsuit began it addressed real issues with the care the state was offering to the developmentally disabled. But since then the state has complied with the issue originally raised and the case should have been over long ago.
A pair of bills, Senate Bill 173 and 174 would simply cut the money the Department of Health (DOH) pays in the case. And to boot it would take that money and give it to DOH to boost the developmental disabilities waiver program. The waiting list for the DOH program includes over 4,000 people and DOH has said the program needs more money before they can take on any more.
Adair was quick to point out that New Mexico gets three dollars for every one dollar it spends in the program. So the $5 million would actually mean $20 million for DOH.
A spokeswoman for DOH says the state still has some ground to cover to fulfill the requirements set forth in Jackson v. Fort Stanton. So it will continue to pay the bills for the case.
“We would love to devote all of our funds to getting people the services we need,” spokeswoman Deborah Busmeyer said. “We are committed to meeting all of the goals outlined in the agreement during this administration.”
The ACLU isn’t a party in the Jackson v. Ft. Stanton case but Simonson said the bills were misguided.
“Senator Adair is trying to twist the truth of these suits,” Simonson said, pointing out that the courts are the only recourse for citizens to bring concerns about the state.
Adair is hopeful passage of his bill will be the push forward the case needs to bring it to some resolution. The question of whether or not he gets to find out is now up to the Legislature.