Grand jury indicts former head of New Mexico MLK commission
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Jan. 13, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The former head of New Mexico's Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and two others have been indicted on numerous charges stemming from a lengthy investigation into allegations of financial impropriety.
The indictments handed up Friday accuse former executive director Kimberly Greene of more than a dozen charges that include fraud, embezzlement, larceny, conspiracy and other counts. It wasn't immediately clear if Greene, who was removed by commissioners in 2016, had an attorney.
The others charged in the case are former financial auditor Cheryl Yazzie and Charles Countee, head of the nonprofit Educational, Research, Evaluation and Design Inc., or eREAD, which held and distributed funds for the commission. A phone message left at the eREAD office in Albuquerque wasn't returned.
Court documents accuse Greene of submitting falsified purchase order requests that sought reimbursement for spending related to a leadership program. Yazzie is accused of signing off on the requests, while Countee allegedly facilitated the transfer of money.
"Now that these defendants have been indicted, the Office of the Attorney General is focused on preparing this case for trial," said agency spokesman James Hallinan. He declined to comment further on the specific charges.
The case first became public two years ago when agents with the Attorney General's Office seized computers and phones as well as bank records, invoices, emails and other documents related to the commission's financial activities.
The search warrants revealed that investigators believed Greene may have funneled $16,000 in state money to herself, as well as forged an invoice from eREAD for more than $51,700.
At the time, the commission had a budget of $336,000 to promote diversity and organize events around Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In December 2015, Greene went before the State Board of Finance to request nearly $100,000 in emergency funding. She told the board that the commission had overspent its budget and needed money to pay vendors. Among the commission's expenses were its annual youth leadership conference and a program aimed at helping students prepare for ACT and SATs.
Board members had voiced concerns about the lack of financial controls at the commission, which was also on the state auditor's "at-risk" list for failing to file required annual audits.
The commission ended up removing Greene in February 2016 and eliminated other positions in hopes of recovering and shoring up finances.
Leonard Waites, who became the commission's new executive director in August 2016, said Friday he had not yet heard about the indictments.
"Having that black cloud over us has caused some issues, but we have new personnel and we're moving forward," he said. "We've got some outstanding things going on that we've created and we're trying to bring a new image to this office and I think we're doing very well with that."
The commission is sponsoring Saturday's MLK March in downtown Albuquerque and is continuing to work with the University of New Mexico and the city to put on an annual indoor track meet. There is also a leadership program in the summer that's aimed at bringing youth together.