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Candidates for state auditor come to Roswell

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Two candidates in the race for New Mexico state auditor were in Roswell this week: One to highlight the work done in the office under his leadership and the other to lay out the vision for the office should he be elected in November.

New Mexico State Auditor Wayne Johnson speaks to a group of seniors Wednesday at the Joy Luck Senior Center about a recent audit that showed funds meant for elder services were instead being spent on dinners, parties and employee bonuses. Johnson, a Republican will be on the ballot in November. (Alex Ross Photo)

Incumbent Wayne Johnson spoke to seniors at the Joy Luck Senior Center about a recent audit that showed state money meant for seniors was instead spent on dinners, parties and bonuses for employees.

“That is not where those dollars were supposed to go to seniors centers just like this around the state,” he said to a crowd at the senior center.

The audit of the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District (NCNMEDD) was completed last week and identified $120,000 in misspent state funds that had been meant for elder care. The NCNMEDD is a council of governments that runs the Non-Metro Agency on Aging, which is responsible for providing services for seniors and caregivers. The NCNMEDD receives more than $20 million in state funds a year to provide such services.

Johnson called the spending reprehensible, especially since it was taking place while the Non-Metro Agency on Aging faced a $617,998 budget cut. He added Chaves County was the county that absorbed the largest budget cut at $45,947.

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Johnson has led the state auditor’s office for eight months. A Republican and former Bernalillo County Commissioner, Johnson was tapped by Gov. Susanna Martinez to finish the term of Democrat Tim Keller.

Keller resigned in November after he won the Albuquerque mayoral election.

Johnson told the audience that his office is in charge of making sure the state and local governments in New Mexico stay “in their lanes” and abide by the budgets and other policies that govern them.

“So I am kind of like the referee for local government to make sure things are operating like they should,” he said.

Johnson’s name will be on the ballot this November as he hopes to be elected to a full term. He will face Democrat Brian Colón in November.

Brian Colón, the Democratic candidate for New Mexico state auditor talks to a group of voters Tuesday at the campaign office of the Democratic Party of Chaves County during a visit to Roswell. An Albuquerque attorney, Colón said he hopes to make the office more accessible. (Alex Ross Photo)

Colón addressed local voters Wednesday at the campaign office of the Democratic Party of Chaves County.

An attorney from Albuquerque who also holds a degree in finance, Colón said he hopes to build on what past state auditors such as Keller and current New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas have done while leading the office.

“We are going to keep running down that road of fighting corruption, fraud and abuse to make sure that New Mexico’s taxpayers get what they deserve and that is good government in New Mexico,” Colón told the crowd.

He added that by having a background in both finance and law, he believes he would be the perfect fit for the office.

Colón said if elected he wants to travel to communities and counties throughout New Mexico, because he believes it is taxpayers at the local level who best know where inefficiencies, fraud and abuse are.

He added that visiting people throughout New Mexico will give people a better idea about how to interact with the office.

“It’s all about accessibility and it is about knowing that the taxpayers aren’t going to come to Santa Fe, you have to take Santa Fe to the taxpayers,” Colón said.

The office should be the “sword and shield” for New Mexicans and he said he wants to make the auditor’s office have the resources it needs to protect taxpayers.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.