Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Editorial: NM Land Office’s defense of conflict claims offensive

It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. But the State Land Office response to conflict-of-interest questions directed at its deputy commissioner – that they are political, even sexist – are, quite frankly, offensive.

But when you can’t argue facts, maybe name calling is your best bet.

Journal investigative reporter Thomas J. Cole found that while the State Land Office’s code of conduct explicitly prohibits employees from acting as an agent for the lease of state trust lands, Deputy State Land Commissioner Laura Riley:

1. Wrote a check from her firm, Riley & Knight Appraisal and Consulting Services, to cover the administrative fees for two entities that applied to the State Land Office to have their nearly 9,000 acres in grazing leases transferred to a billionaire’s ranch in western New Mexico, and
2. Signed and approved the lease transfers on behalf of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.

So how is it “politically motivated … and possibly even sexist” to raise questions about Riley not only paying the fee for the lease transfers but approving them? Especially considering the code of conduct also says “under no circumstances shall employees give rise to a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest with the SLO”?

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