LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A special review of Sunland Park's finances that's nearing completion will reveal "numerous" violations of state law, New Mexico state Auditor Hector Balderas said.
Balderas told the Las Cruces Sun-News that his office plans a second audit to follow up on other possible problems.
The initial audit of the city's finances is essentially complete and going through a final review. Balderas says he plans to brief Gov. Susana Martinez, Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando and the state's Department of Finance and Administration before making it public.
He expects the report to be released within two weeks.
"The audit will contain numerous findings regarding violations of law and noncompliance," he said in an interview with the newspaper. "I can't comment on the type, whether civil or criminal, but we do have confirmed violations of law at this time."
The results could lead to suspensions of Sunland Park officials who are found to have been involved with financial mismanagement or fraud, Balderas said. State law empowers the Department of Finance to make that call, and the agency will rely upon Balderas' findings.
Balderas said about seven auditors pored over 7,000 pages of city documents and spent "hundreds of staff hours" to produce the 75-page report. He declined to specify any findings, but he gave general categories that were examined, including the city's fire protection fund, border crossing fund, Camino Real Regional Utility Authority fund and all contracts and agreements. Also, budget overspending, utility billing and travel and per diem paid out to various city officials were on the radar, he said.
"We've also stumbled across questionable documents related to water rights, and that's about all I can say publicly at this point," he said.
A second audit by Balderas' office and a contracted audit firm will delve into unspecified new allegations, Balderas said.
At least two top, former Sunland Park officials, former Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Salinas and former City Manager Jaime Aguilera, are no longer involved with city operations because they've been charged with numerous felony-level crimes. Aguilera also has denied wrongdoing.
Salinas faces some two dozen felonies on allegations ranging from extortion to illegal kickbacks and padding expense reports to cover partying and hookers at a conference in Mexico. He's pleaded not guilty to 18 charges remains in jail.
Salinas won election to the mayor's seat on March 6, but couldn't take office because of court-ordered conditions of his bail on an earlier extortion case. He is now jailed in connection with the kickback case. Aguilera is out of jail, but was fired by the City Council.
Orlando, the district attorney, is conducting a separate investigation. She said her office has shared information with Balderas.
"There's just a lot of corruption going on in Sunland Park," she said. "Every time we start to look at a contract in Sunland Park, two more issues pop up. And I think he's finding the same thing," she said of Balderas.
Balderas said he also plans to refer the report to state law enforcement and to the FBI and the IRS because there's a possibility federal dollars were involved.
"They're all pretty serious," he said of the findings.
Orlando, meanwhile, said her office continues to field tips about alleged illegal activity that has happened in Sunland Park. She foresees more arrests down the road.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.