Money and the NM Military Institute fight

By Rob Nikolewski on July 17, 2013
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A bitter fight between the and the school’s erstwhile alumni association has been left to the courts.

Who knows how they will rule, but it will be a costly battle. That much is certain.

And the fact that NMMI is leads to a host of questions, as does the fact the alumni association has hired a public relations firm in the lead-up to a trial that may take months to resolve.

THE MONEY TRAIL: The NM Military Institute is suing its alumni association.

As New Mexico Watchdog reported earlier this week, the military institute, based in Roswell, accuses the alumni association of failing to maintain adequate financial records and has asking the Fifth Judicial District Court to freeze the association account.

The alumni association counters by saying the lawsuit is an excuse to seize $5.2 million in assets and accuses of distributing “false and misleading information.”

The told New Mexico Watchdog that NMMI received $12.6 million in fiscal 2013, according to the SLO’s annual report. of the institute’s marketing and public relations departments, said the SLO money accounts for about 80 percent of the school’s operating funds, with the rest coming from fees, such as tuition.

Hansen said money for the legal fight comes from NMMI’s operational fund balances. “We have funds set aside” for the lawsuit, Hansen said.

Since the institute is funded by the state through the , the money being spent on a lawsuit may have implications regarding the use of public dollars and that relationship with the Legislature, the branch of state government that controls the purse strings.

So far, none of the members of the Legislature from Roswell have weighed in on the matter.

“I’m still in research mode,” said state Sen. , R-Roswell. “There are always two sides to every issue … You’re the first one to talk to me about this.”

“I don’t know all the details, but the institution is publicly funded, so that has to be looked at,” said state Rep. , R-Roswell. “It’s sad to see this situation going in this direction.”

“I’ve heard stuff from both sides,” said state Rep. , R-Roswell, adding, “I believe in oversight … This situation, that one’s kind of a tough one for me.”

Hansen told New Mexico Watchdog that once the lawsuit is resolved the school would not have an issue disclosing legal fees. “After all is said and done, that is something that is public access,” he said. “We won’t hide anything.”

Meanwhile, the alumni association, which the administration has expelled from the NMMI campus, has hired a public relations firm.

That move was criticized by , NMMI Class of ’49 and law professor at Texas Wesleyan, whose email to alumni association board president was

“The regents have acted, and that should be enough,” Elliott wrote June 12, concluding with, “Get a life.”

But the alumni association says it had little choice but to hire of Albuquerque after getting kicked off the NMMI post.

“The Waite Company is providing alumni and public communications support to the Association in the absence of its staff, which was hired away from the Association by Mr. Grizzle earlier this year,” , the firm’s president, said in an email.

Hansen’s only comment was, “They should be responsible enough to expend funds in a responsible way.”

The alumni association says its $5.2 million comes from donations — it has spent about $35,000 on expenses since the school’s board of regents severed ties.

In its lawsuit, the NMMI claims that since the alumni association “solicited funds on behalf and for the benefit” of the school, “NMMI is the intended beneficiary of the funds maintained by the Association.”

As for the trial itself, papers were filed in Chaves County, home of NMMI’s Roswell campus, but the lawsuit has been moved some 75 miles south to Carlsbad. was assigned the case.

With so many accusations, is it possible the two sides might eventually co-exist?

“The NMMI Alumni Association has been in existence for more than 50 years and has maintained a strong relationship with the Institute regardless of who serves as Superintendent,” Phinizy said in an email to New Mexico Watchdog. “We look forward to moving past these issues with Mr. Grizzle and continuing that relationship.”

“NMMI will always serve and support all of its Alumni, which is the reason for re-instituting an Office of Alumni Relations under the school infrastructure,” Hansen said in an email. “And, while anything is possible, the Board of Regents and the Institute feel that the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association, Inc[.] were given more than enough time (approximately 3 years) and resources (Institute-Association agreed to infrastructure resources, and other resources) to at least solve the most serious of the issues — the monthly and annual financial management and accounting activities and Association budgeting.”


to read the lawsuit filed by NMMI. The alumni group is reported to be close to filing a counter-suit.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski


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