UNM re­gent re­cuses him­self from board vote

Michael Brasher says he will skip Board of Fi­nance votes in­volv­ing UNM

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO & NM - BY DAN MCKAY AND JES­SICA DYER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRIT­ERS

SANTA FE — Michael Brasher — serv­ing dual roles as a mem­ber of the state Board of Fi­nance and as a re­gent over­see­ing the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico — re­versed course Tues­day and said he will ab­stain from Board of Fi­nance votes in­volv­ing UNM.

Brasher said he’s been as­sured that there’s no le­gal re­quire­ment to re­cuse him­self, but he will ab­stain any­way to avoid even the ap­pear­ance of a po­ten­tial con­flict.

He made the an­nounce­ment Tues­day dur­ing a state Board of Fi­nance meet­ing, dur­ing which the board ap­proved plans for UNM to move for­ward with a $35 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion and ex­pan­sion of John­son Cen­ter, a recre­ational com­plex that in­cludes gyms and pools.

Brasher didn’t par­tic­i­pate in the vote. He said his dual role had been “con­sid­ered at sig­nif­i­cant lengths” by mem­bers of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice, the Board of Fi­nance and the Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice.

“While I’ve been ad­vised that the law is clear — there is no con­flict — and not­with­stand­ing that, there is am­ple prece­dent of sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions of serv­ing on mul­ti­ple pub­lic boards.” he said. “Enough con­cern has been raised in the press that, in the spirit of avoid­ing ap­pear­ances of con­flicts of in­ter­est, I’ve made this de­ci­sion.”

His re­cusal came af­ter he voted on a UNM project last month as a mem­ber of the Board of Fi­nance — the first UNM vote to come up at the board since Gov. Su­sana Mar­tinez added him to the Board of Re­gents.

Brasher said last month that no one had asked him to re­cuse him­self and that an at­tor­ney staff-

ing the board said there was no rea­son for him to ab­stain.

In­deed, As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sally Malave told board mem­bers Tues­day that she doesn’t be­lieve Brasher’s role as a re­gent would cre­ate the kind of per­sonal fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in a UNM project that would vi­o­late the state Gov­ern­men­tal Con­duct Act.

Nonethe­less, Brasher said Tues­day that he won’t par­tic­i­pate in board votes that in­volve UNM. He didn’t say whether he would also ab­stain from votes in­volv­ing other higher ed­u­ca­tion projects, as some have re­quested.

The Board of Fi­nance has author­ity over a va­ri­ety of higher ed­u­ca­tion mat­ters. Uni­ver­si­ties must get ap­proval from the board to is­sue rev­enue bonds, ini­ti­ate sig­nif­i­cant con­struc­tion projects or add grad­u­ate pro­grams.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Dem­ing Demo­crat and chair­man of the Sen­ate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, told the Jour­nal that he still be­lieves Brasher should re­cuse him­self from all higher ed­u­ca­tion mat­ters due to the per­cep­tion of a pos­si­ble pro-UNM “bias.”

But he com­mended Brasher for de­cid­ing to at least re­cuse him­self from UNM votes.

“Ev­i­dently, he’s re­think­ing his po­si­tion. I ap­pre­ci­ate it from that stand­point,” Smith said, adding that “a small step is bet­ter than no step.”

UNM Re­gent Michael Brasher

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