Controversy Over Former N.M. Superintendent Cost Nonprofit $90,000

November 20, 2006

Con Alma Health Foundation spent about $90,000 on attorneys’ fees, a public relations firm and other expenses generated by a controversy involving its founder and former board president.

“It’s a lot of money,” said Robert Desiderio, executive director of the nonprofit health foundation.

Former state Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna resigned in April as Con Alma’s president after questions over a possible conflict of interest between his dual roles on the foundation’s board and as insurance superintendent.

Serna later resigned as insurance superintendent in an agreement with the state Public Regulation Commission, which asked the attorney general’s office to investigate a contract between the Insurance Division and a Santa Fe bank that made hefty contributions to Con Alma.

Investigations by Attorney General Patricia Madrid and the FBI are continuing.

The foundation was created in 2001 with funds from the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico. Serna ordered the foundation’s creation under his authority as insurance superintendent, with oversight from Madrid.

Con Alma’s main mission is to award grants, largely to rural nonprofit health care organizations. Desiderio said grants average $50,000, and noted the amount spent on the Serna controversy “is now up to almost two grants.”

The foundation hired an Albuquerque public relations firm, D.W. Turner Public Relations, “to help us address the issues that we were being presented, mainly through media and other persons.” That work has ended, he said.

In addition, the foundation has hired a new investment adviser, replacing Wachovia Securities of New Mexico. Beacon Point Advisors of Newport, Calif., will manage Con Alma’s assets of nearly $25 million. The switch will save the foundation an estimated $60,000 a year, board member Richard Carpenter said.

The foundation also is reviewing applications for a new executive director. Desiderio, who has held the job for four years, announced early last month that he would leave at the end of the year.

Carpenter said the organization received about 40 applications, and that a new director could be chosen by January.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.