Editorial: PRC member lucky voters missing facts

Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya, the newest member of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, is arguably one of the luckiest candidates to come out ahead in the Nov. 6 election.

Because if voters knew then what they know now, it's questionable they would be entrusting her with setting their utility rates, overseeing their insurance premiums and governing the safety of their ambulances.

And it's unlikely they would reward the term-limited bureaucrat with a new $90K-plus annual salary.

In the weeks since ballots were cast and tallied, it has come to light that under her watch, Montoya's office left a $7 million "Tuscan estate" in Los Ranchos off the tax rolls, as well as two West Side homes — probably worth $250,000 each — and a dozen Northeast Heights condominium units — likely to be appraised around $133,000 each.

New Mexicans should think about that as they write their property tax checks to their county treasurers.

Montoya blames the homeowners — who rightly share some of it — for not alerting her office and says an employee may be disciplined. This is the same official who declined to show up for work for a month during her 2010 primary re-election campaign, claiming employees could always reach her by phone.

Montoya was vocally opposed to all three constitutional amendments to reform the PRC. Thankfully, voters paid attention and approved streamlining the commission's responsibilities by sending corporations to the Secretary of State's Office and peeling off the Insurance Division into a free-standing agency.

She also disagreed with voters and denounced the need for the amendment to let the Legislature to set qualifications for PRC members, an upgrade steeped in commissioners' legal and ethical struggles over the years, most recently with convicted felons Jerome Block Jr. and Carol Sloan.

Montoya argued during the campaign that voters are the best judges of the candidates and that qualifications wouldn't ensure ethical behavior.

No, they wouldn't. But as Montoya's race proves, voters don't always have all the facts at their disposal. And qualifications would help ensure a commissioner knows how to do his or her job.

That's something Montoya has recently struggled with as assessor.

— Albuquerque Journal

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