PRC must leave worst practices behind

April 8, 2019

Bribes, embezzlement and sexual harassment settlements approaching $1 million. Failure to meet educational requirements and then fabricating fake academic credentials to cover up the noncompliance. Whistleblowers awarded nearly $1 million in damages after being fired for exposing corruption (“Report: Bad reputation plagues PRC’s performance,” Oct. 12, 2017).

This report only scratches the surface when it comes to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, which is perhaps the most powerful regulatory agency in the nation. Besides repeatedly committing acts that have eroded the public’s trust in the PRC to carry out their most basic functions, the PRC has left business owners, investors and entrepreneurs legitimately wondering whether its next decision will cripple their business.

An organization that has been labeled as being in a “death-spiral” in the 2017 report to the state Legislature has the power to regulate diverse industries throughout our state. An organization which is so powerful and far reaching that it touches every New Mexican, and practically every business, daily. These five individuals, elected to represent their constituents, must work together to ensure they do not repeat the mistakes of past commissioners.

Our economy has vast opportunities to create good-paying, sustainable jobs right here in New Mexico. The PRC has the power to promote job creation and economic development, or the power to use their agency as a bureaucratic bludgeon, inflicting irreparable harm on our economy, workforce and emerging economic development projects. As new commissioners begin casting important regulatory decisions, they can show New Mexicans they have learned from their predecessors’ problematic behavior, by making informed, fair and consistent decisions — or they can rule the PRC as their personal political fiefdoms, treating those who come before them as political pawns, ignoring the great responsibilities that come with being elected to the PRC.

While conducting interviews for their report to the Legislature, researchers were informed commissioners routinely ignored facts of record and their duty to be impartial judges. Commissioners have prioritized serving political groups and voting blocs, rather then making sound decisions based on science, evidence and the advice of professionals trained and educated in a specific field. As business owners and leaders, we must make decisions not based on personal ideologies or political pressure, but rather what is best for our workers, customers and investors. The PRC must not travel the road it often has; it should forge a new path to foster and develop a new economy for our growing state.

The integrity, independence and decision-making ability of one of our most powerful and important government agencies has reached the point where the general public has no faith in the decisions being made. New Mexicans have also elected new commissioners to reform a broken agency, and our commissioners have a unique chance to show businesses throughout the state that they will act independently, fairly and consistently — creating a climate where businesses can thrive, not barely struggle to stay alive.

As new PRC commissioners form a new body, they must leave past practices behind, creating an environment where evidence supersedes political ideology and parties work together to ensure New Mexicans aren’t denied important services for no good reason. Commissioners must commit themselves to working with all parties to allow New Mexico’s economy to diversify, meet the demands of an evolving customer base and create new, sustainable jobs for residents from all walks of life.

Matt Berger retired to Santa Fe after a successful career as an engineer for a Fortune 500 company.