State official defends investigation fees

By Steve Terrell: The New Mexican

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons, who also sits on the State Investment Council, on Monday defended the SIC’s request for millions of dollars in additional legal fees to a San Francisco law firm conducting an internal review of documents related to federal investigations of state investment practices.

However, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been conducting hearings related to the controversies surrounding the SIC, said Monday that the SIC’s request for $4 million in additional funds and $1.7 million in budget readjustments are bound to provoke a fight on the Senate floor.

Lyons said when he first met lawyers from the Paul Hastings firm last year, he wanted to “run ‘em out of town.” However, Lyons said he’s since been convinced that the firm has been extremely helpful in uncovering wrongdoing in the investment process.

The land commissioner said some of the information about third-party placement agents uncovered by the Paul Hastings firm led to the resignation of former state investment officer Gary Bland last year. Lyons previously has said this information showed that Bland pressured investment firms doing business with the state to hire certain third-party marketing or placement agents.

If Paul Hastings doesn’t do the review of all the documents, who will? Lyons asked. He said if the state quit paying the firm, it would take months for another team of lawyers to get up to speed on the case.