State auditor supervises budget meeting led by embattled Las Vegas mayor
August 14, 2019 10:12 PM
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — All New Mexico cities had to submit their budgets to the state by July 31. It's a critically important deadline and missing it has serious consequences. It's now mid-August and the Las Vegas City Council just passed a budget, but not before Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron tried to make a power grab that put her own city at risk.
State Auditor Brian Colón sat in the front row to watch the city council meeting – a meeting that should have happened weeks ago. Sources inside city hall revealed to 4 Investigates that Gurule-Giron intentionally skipped the required public meeting to pass a budget. She essentially bypassed accountability from city councilors, the public and the media.
Gurule-Giron sent a budget to the state with no approval from a governing body, which is illegal. Colón called her out for it.
"Well here's the deal. I got out from behind my desk in Santa Fe and came here to Las Vegas, New Mexico to make sure that the city council and mayor work together to do the job of the people of Las Vegas," Colón said.
The mayor and city council approved a budget, but the damage may have already been done by missing the deadline.
Ramirez: Can you tell us, in your own words, why this budget was so delayed in being approved by this governing body?
Gurule-Giron: Why don't you ask the councilor who put it on the agenda, then refused to vote on the item, so we rescheduled another week for this week?
4 Investigates was at the last public meeting when the city's finance director didn't have a budget report ready and there was nothing related to the budget to vote on.
Ramirez: Is there concern now that the city is at risk of losing funds or your bonding capacity because of this delay?
Gurule-Giron: Absolutely not. If you understood the budget, you would not have asked that question.
Ramirez: Well, actually that information came from the state auditor about three minutes ago, and so that is why I am asking this question.
Gurule-Giron: I don't believe that is correct.
Colón said it is a risk.
"If a municipality or a governmental agency doesn't properly submit to DFA its budget, it risks state funds," Colón said. "It risks federal funds, it jeopardizes their bonding capacity and their rating.
Additionally, councilwoman Barbara Perea Casey said the delayed budget has held up federal housing funds.
"They told her they could not release the monthly subsidy until we had already approved our budget," Perea Casey said.
According to Colón, the Las Vegas City Council gave away most of its powers to the mayor in 2002. Now, 17 years later, the powers are unbalanced and many feel Gurule-Giron has too much power – so their government isn't fully functioning for its citizens.
Attorney General Hector Balderas suspects Gurule-Giron rigged city contracts and made up fake city jobs for her boyfriend.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also suspects that Gurule-Giron tampered with an election and committed voter fraud to stack the council with her supporters.
At this point, Gurule-Giron isn't facing criminal charges – just allegations.
Updated: August 14, 2019 10:12 PM
Created: August 14, 2019 09:32 PM
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