Commissioner critical of county lobbyists

Mike Linn

A Roosevelt County commissioner is disgruntled with two lobbyists the commission hired last year to seek state funding for county projects.
Commissioner Tom Clark said one of the lobbyists failed to keep a promise they would only lobby for Roosevelt County. Moreover, Clark said the lobbyists, Portales City Councilman Mike Miller and Arch resident David Sanders, were unable to help the commission obtain more financing for the commission’s highest priorities, but were able to get funding for one of their lowest priorities.
“When we hire and pay someone to go up there and lobby for us I expect them to lobby for what our priorities are and not for something else — that’s not what happened last year,” Clark said.
Miller refuted Clark’s claim.
Sanders, however, said he did lobby for the $45,000 the legislature awarded the Arch Volunteer Fire Department, which he said was either fifth or sixth on the commission’s list of priorities.
Sanders said roughly 40 to 50 Arch residents also lobbied for that money, and many state representatives come to Arch’s annual pheasant hunt, which probably helped.
County Administrator Charlene Hardin said among the main priorities county commissioners asked the lobbyists to pursue included $400,000 for road repairs and equipment and almost $1 million to revamp the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds.
Last year the state allocated $230,000 for road repairs and equipment and $30,000 for electrical work at the fairgrounds.
The commission paid Miller $7,500 and Sanders was reimbursed for his expenses up to $100 a day to lobby on behalf of the county in Santa Fe.
Miller, who also lobbied on behalf of Portales schools, Roosevelt General Hospital and a hospital in Lovington, said he never said he would only lobby on behalf of the county.
“They didn’t pay me enough money to not lobby for somebody else,” Miller said. “My understanding is that my commitment to them was that I would not advocate on behalf of the city (of Portales).”
Miller also said he only lobbied for the commission’s top priorities, and did not seek funds for the Arch Volunteer Fire Department.
Commissioner Paul Grider noted the lobbyists were successful compared to the 2002 year, when the commission did not hire a lobbyist and didn’t receive nearly as much money.
Hardin and Commissioner Dennis Lopez told Clark that sometimes state officials will use their own judgment in allocating funds, no matter what the lobbyists say or do.

Also at the meeting:

— After a 1 1/2-hour executive session the commission authorized Roosevelt County Attorney Randy Knudson to send letters to all department heads asking they follow a code that does not permit purchasing anything without first having a purchase order.

• The commission voted to fund Roosevelt General Hospital $41,048.25 to pay for the first of four quarterly payments to fund the Sole Community Provider Program, which is set aside for Indigent residents of Roosevelt County.
RGH officials then allocate $123,144.75 for the remaining three quarters and the state funds the program $486,849 annually.
Clark said the county’s funding for the Sole Community Provider has increased significantly over the years, and noted the commission may want to reconsider next year how much of the money comes from the county’s budget.

• The commission also approved a budget adjustment for the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department for about $4,000. The money, which was seized from a prisoner caught selling drugs in the Roosevelt County Detention Center over the summer, was initially budgeted for rehabilitation purposes.
The money will now go to fund undercover drug enforcement agents.

• The commission presented a framed certificate of appreciation to state fair queen Silver Paiz, who won the contest during the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque in September.
Paiz is the first Roosevelt County Fair queen to win the state title.