As It Is: A double standard

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By David Giuliani

In 2008, we reported that Pete Campos entered a five-year contract with the Luna Community College Board of Trustees. But we never actually saw the document.

In November, I issued a public records request for the four-page contract. I received it last week. And I got a bit of a workout in the process.

The human resources department, which handles public records requests, alerted me that the contract was available for inspection. So I went to that office. And an employee had me fill out a form. Then she told me to go to the fiscal office, down a long hallway, to pay for the documents — for a total of $2 (50 cents per page). I followed her directions, waited in line for a few minutes and forked over the money. Then I was given a receipt. I proceeded to the HR department, where I presented the receipt and then was given the documents.

Not exactly a customer-friendly process. Something tells me that I could avoid the maze if I were asking for, say, a commendation letter from the state auditor on the college’s finances.

Fortunately, I’m paid to deal with needless bureaucracy. But I fear that most people wouldn’t have the time to deal with such hurdles.

By the way, Campos’ contract does make for some interesting reading. As we have already reported, Campos gets $150,000 a year to serve as president.

I have stated repeatedly in this column that I think it’s outrageous to pay someone that much money when he’s gone for months at a time on another job — state senator.

But the moonlighting is no problem whatsoever for the Board of Trustees. In fact, that feeling is reflected in the contract.

“The usual legislative duties of the President shall not be deemed to interfere with the performance of his duties under this agreement simply by reason of his absence from the LCC location or because some of his duties as President need to be conducted at a distance, rather than in person,” the contract reads.

Boy, what a deal! How many of you can get your boss to agree to such terms? I’d try, but I’m sure I’d be laughed right out of the Optic honcho’s office.

I know, I know: Campos claims to be a champion multi-tasker. But if you talk to most state legislators, they say they’re working long hours representing us in Santa Fe. I presume Campos does so as well. If he is, he’s dissing Luna. And if he’s not, he’s giving the shaft to his Senate district’s constituents.

The contract also states, “The parties agree that the legislative duties of the President shall not constitute a conflict of interest with LCC...”

Let me get this straight: If the Luna trustees say something is not a conflict of interest, that makes it so? Maybe in their world, but not in mine.

Certainly, there are possibilities of conflicts of interest. So far, Campos hasn’t pushed any bills seeking money for Luna. And that’s good because that would be an unquestionable conflict. But what if he asks his colleagues to sponsor such bills? Wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest? Of course, it would be — never mind what the presumably well-paid Albuquerque-Santa Fe lawyer who drafted the contract says.

The contract also includes a couple of perks that haven’t been publicly known. For starters, Campos gets $9,000 a year in additional compensation to cover all of his vehicle costs. That’s $750 a month, including those months he’s at the Legislature.

Campos also gets the use of $15,000 for public relations and entertainment activities. No strings attached, with the exception of a ban on the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

But to Campos’ credit, he has not spent any of this money since taking office in July 2008, with the exception of $136 for a dinner for scholarship recipients. It’s refreshing to see an official refrain from spending money available to him.

Other presidents had the same expense account, and they spent it like there was no tomorrow. After Leroy “Huero” Sanchez left as president three years ago, I examined some of the expenses from his discretionary account. It turned out that among other expenditures, he forked out hundreds of dollars for a meal for him and a couple of other Luna officials (amounting to $89 a person). All we got to look at was a credit card receipt. As such, we couldn’t determine if any of it was spent on alcohol.

Luna’s records included other pricey meals that contained no itemized receipts. Yet when one of the big guys goes to McDonald’s, we’re able to get full documentation, finding out what size fries the person got.

I don’t write this column out of any personal malice toward Pete Campos. He’s a nice guy; I wish him all the best.

At the same time, I don’t like to see double standards. And that’s exactly what we have with Campos. No trustee has been successful in counteracting this assertion. (I left a message for Campos to give him an opportunity to comment; he didn’t return the call.)

The trustees deny vehemently that they hired Campos because he’s a state senator with a lot of political connections in Santa Fe. But all indications show that this is precisely why they appointed him. All of the other finalists for the position had experience in post-secondary education; Campos did not.

Who else around here has a well-paying job and is allowed to be away for good chunks of the year? Does anyone else at Luna have that deal? The answers to these questions are pretty obvious.

I’m glad I did all that walking at Luna to see these four pages. Now, I understand why the big guys didn’t want to make it easy for me or anyone else to get them.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.