Bernalillo County commissioners, treasurer at odds

Posted at: 10/24/2013 6:13 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

There's some serious tension Thursday between the Bernalillo County treasurer and some county commissioners.

It's so bad, treasurer Manny Ortiz has stopped going to county finance board meetings.

Some commissioners argue Ortiz's money management has put the brakes on some county projects.

According to one commissioner, the current investment strategy has a lot of the county's money tied up, meaning there's not much cash on hand.

"We have to make sure our budget is balanced," said Commissioner Lonnie Talbert.

But there doesn't seem to be anything balanced about the relationship between county commissioners and treasurer Manny Ortiz. That's commissioner Talbert's take.

"We'd like for him to come and talk to us so we can figure out what's going on," said Talbert.

Talbert says the current county investment strategy needs an emergency makeover. He says about $13 million is inaccessible. The county's able to make payroll and bills, but not special projects.

"It trickles down to the constituent because, if we're not able to work with our county treasurer who represents not only the constituents interest like our interests, and our constituents interests, the taxpayers interests; you're at an impasse," said Talbert.

Talbert told us the impasse grows. Ortiz has missed the last two board of finance meetings where commissioners had hoped to discuss their investment strategy.

Ortiz announced he'd be absent from an October 8th meeting in a letter to commissioners dated that same day.

On the 22nd, Ortiz wrote the commissioners again, saying "Let's follow the Investment Policy." But that night, he failed to show up to the second commissioner's meeting in a row.

"I guess it's hard to meet someone halfway when they're not even showing up to the meeting to talk about what halfway looks like," said Talbert.

We caught up with Ortiz outside his office at 1 Civic Plaza in Albuquerque and asked him how he thinks the treasurer's office is running right now.

"It's running smooth, it's running smooth," he said.

But he says the impasse with commissioners is complex.

"One of the things they want is they want to manage the investment committee, which I'm in charge of," said Ortiz. "They want to take over and appoint their own people. I think that's a conflict of interest wanting to be in administration, and appoint an investment committee."

He said he just can't get on board.

"You know what? I'm trying to work with them. But I would have to say, yeah. We're probably at odds," said Ortiz.

Commissioner Talbert agrees.

He says for the county to get more cash, Ortiz is going to have to sell bonds early, which comes with a price tag of its own.

"If you can't even sit down with the person you want to work with and try to have that occur, you can draw your own conclusions," said Talbert.

We asked Ortiz for his conclusion to the stalemate.

"Does trying to work with them include not coming to meetings or not having a presence in the meetings?" asked KOB Eyewitness News 4 reporter Caleb James.

"If I don't have the information, I can't go. In fact, there's a meeting coming up the 12th. I pulled the minutes of the meeting, and I'm going to answer every question they might have had," said Ortiz.

Ortiz said he plans to attend the Nov. 12 meeting.