Financial feud leads to a battle royale at NM Military Institute

By Rob Nikolewski on July 16, 2013
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During the Civil War, , “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”

Today, a similar sentiment is expressed by two sides locked in a bitter fight at the , which is experiencing a civil war of its own, pitting the school’s administration against a group of alumni in a controversy that goes to the heart of the 122-year-old facility whose motto is “Duty, Honor, and Achievement.”

THE BATTLE HAS BEEN JOINED: The administration at the NM Military Institute is suing its own alumni association. Wikipedia photo.

Throughout the hot summer, charges and counter-charges have flown at the state-supported facility in Roswell and a quick, painless resolution appears to have long ago faded into the sunset.

“It’s just a disgrace,” said one NMMI alumnus who requested not use his name because of the controversy. “A lot of us just hope that some sort of mediation can be reached between the two sides.”

In one corner is the NMMI administration, led by retired , and in the other corner is the school’s alumni association, which recently selected attorney and former military intelligence officer , NMMI Class of ’67, as its president.

At stake is the $5.2 million in the alumni association’s war chest.

Major General Jerry Griizzle, president and superintendent at the NM Military Institute

Gen. Grizzle claims the alumni association “had not maintained any sort of adequate financial records” and in April the administration severed ties with the alumni association, expelled its members from campus, formed its own , hired a new director and in June asking the 5th Judicial Court to freeze the association’s accounts.

Phinizy and the members of the alumni association say Grizzle’s move is a power grab, aimed at seizing the $5.2 million in assets the school’s 14,000 alums have collected in the past 50 years. Sources say that within days, the alumni association will file a counter-lawsuit against the school.

“There’s not a whole lot I can say,” Phinizy said in a phone conversation with New Mexico Watchdog on Monday (July 16), citing the pending legal issues.

But both sides have taken plenty of shots at each other since the battle began three months ago.

In May, to supporters at NMMI (called “Nimmy” by graduates, cadets, faculty and staff) calling the alumni association board of directors “divisive” and “ill-informed” while Phinizy has sent e-mails saying the administration locked out the alumni association from its offices, changed the passwords of its financial records and, Phinizy wrote, acted in a way in which “laws have been broken and false statements have been made.”

John Phinizy, alumni board president of the NM Military Insitutute

A voicemail message on Monday by New Mexico Watchdog to Grizzle has gone unreturned. “NMMI is not looking to benefit financially from these actions,” Grizzle said in his Facebook post.

Update 5:06 p.m. Carl Hansen of the institute’s marketing and public relations departments said, “We have no comment. The Institute does not comment on pending litigation.”

“False and misleading information is being put out into the public by NMMI Superintendent Grizzle and his representatives, and it must stop,” Phinizy said in a news release May 30.

Phinizy insists that his group’s “financial house is in order” but Grizzle says the alumni association “could not file a tax return for the fiscal year ending June 2012, and did not have a 2013 annual budget,” thus leading the schools board of regents to terminate its relationship with the alums.

Phinizy acknowledged in the May 30 news release that “under previous leadership” the alumni association “did in fact experience some difficulties in regards to its internal bookkeeping” but says the association has received a clean bill of health from the Moss-Adams accounting firm in May.

The back and forth has left NMMI supporters and graduates divided, with some supporting the administration (have pledged their support to Grizzle), others backing Phinizy’s group and while others aren’t sure who to pull for.

The same can be said for many of the people in Roswell.

“I’ve heard stuff from both sides,” said state Rep. , R-Roswell, whose brother graduated from the school in 1975. “I don’t want to see the New Mexico Military (Institute) to have any black clouds above it and I’m afraid that unless something gets settled quick, that’s what we’ve got.”

The administration’s lawsuit against the alumni association has but no trial date has been set yet.

Established in 1891, NMMI is state-supported, nationally accredited, coeducational college preparatory military boarding high school and junior college, offering four years of high school and two years of college for cadets. Its enrollment hovers around 1,000.

are Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Sam Donaldson of ABC News, hotelier Conrad Hilton, actor Owen Wilson and two Pulitzer Prize winners.

As a state-supported institution, NMMI receives its funding from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund and in Part 2 of this story, New Mexico Watchdog will look at the financial implications for the state as the NMMI fight continues.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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One Comment For This Post So Far

  1. Danny Woodward
    1:46 am on July 19th, 2013

    I’m an alumni of NMMI in missouri. Could you please send me article regarding the NMMI vs alumni assoc.

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