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A new commission makes the same mistakes

March 31, 2019 GMT

The recent Santa Fe New Mexican story (“Volatile PRC looks for new chief of staff,” March 5) is a red-flag reminder that this important agency simply has no guiding principles and is instead guided by the politics of its principals. Every year, the Public Regulation Commission and its commissioners make the news for their inability to functionally manage an agency that spends $11 million annually.

New Mexicans have been subjected to story after story surrounding questionable behavior by PRC commissioners, including staff mistreatment, whistleblower retaliation, employee lawsuits, harassment and employee morale that sinks each time the commissioners “running” the agency repeat the mistakes of commissioners past.

With the new year came fresh hope that the commission would not continue to be mired in controversy. Newly elected commissioners vowed that they would turn things around. Instead, they are managing to do the unthinkable and are running this public agency further into the ground, hurting all New Mexicans.

Last year, the outgoing chief of staff was lauded for his management and his ability to instill order in an agency run amok. Today, he is being fired so new commissioners can deflect blame for an agency they continue to mismanage.

With an annual budget of more than $11 million in public money, the PRC has an entire human resources department charged with handling employment issues, but as has become customary, new commissioners believe they know better than the professionals. The job posting for a new chief of staff stipulates someone who can foster a “teamwork” approach, yet new commissioners continue to question their team, blame their team and undermine the credibility of their team every step of the way.

In addition to their dismissal of the chief of staff, new commissioners have also vacated another experienced, well-regarded professional with perhaps the most legal experience in the agency, legal division director Cydney Beadles. The new PRC has now forced the departure of two of its highest-ranking employees with no explanation to the public, no replacements and no understanding of the precise nature of the jobs at which these highly qualified individuals excelled. The PRC expects the public to place blind faith in them because they know best. Except when they don’t.

When commissioners ignore both legal precedent and the recommendations of career public-service staff regarded as experts in their fields, the decisions they render have a high likelihood of being overturned by the courts. New commissioners routinely place politics over principles because they know taxpayers will foot the bill of these costly repeated failures.

Our new commissioners should stay out of day-to-day HR operations, because when they don’t, they deplete PRC resources.

In 2013, a former PRC employee was awarded nearly $1 million after being fired for questioning the hiring practices of a commission caught handing out important regulatory positions to special interests that backed their campaigns.

The public should be concerned when new commissioners make personnel decisions behind closed doors, pushing out experienced public servants and negatively affecting the basic operations of a powerful public agency.

The new commission needs to focus on the job at hand and let the professional public servants do their jobs without fear of being fired because their professional opinions don’t match the political opinions of the new commissioners and their campaign backers.

When politicians lacking expertise allow politics to run an agency, that agency will be run into the ground, leading employees to run for the hills. When the term of the current commissioners inevitably comes to an end, taxpayers will pay for yet another new commission that failed to do anything new.

Victor Romero is a small business owner and entrepreneur.