The NNMC dorm project was first proposed during the administration of former NNMC President José Griego. The college issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a company to act as project manager for dorm development. One of the duties of the project manager would be to devise a financing scheme, i.e. handle the details of funding the project via the issuance of bonds by the college or some other entity of state government acting on the college’s behalf. The project manager would oversee all aspects of the project and would manage or sub-contract the various elements of work to other companies such as an architectural firm, a construction firm, or a bond underwriter.
An experienced company, well-qualified to be such a project manager, responded to the RFP. That company was Institutional Project Management (IPM) of the Chicago area. IPM’s proposal identified RBC Capital Markets as the bond underwriter. At that time Regent Kevin Powers was identified as the Director of RBC Capital Markets in Albuquerque.
Communications between the college and IPM show that IPM was to be selected as the dorm project manager. But on the eve of the anticipated formal action awarding the management contract to IPM, then NNMC Board President Michael Branch proposed a change in the proposal specifications regarding the materials to be used for the dorm buildings beams. Branch, CEO of Santa Fe’s Branch Realty Commercial Advisors [sic], wanted to substitute steel beams for wooden beams. IPM informed NNMC that such a change would mean a substantial increase in construction cost and thereby have an impact on the financing aspects of the project. Another development at this stage of the was IPM’s announcement that the company wished to amend its proposal to make a change it the architectural firm it had initially proposed as one of its sub-contractors in the project.
Based on these two developments, NMCC cancelled the RFP and rejected the IPM proposal. The NNMC Board then stated that no other company had submitted a “second best” proposal and the entire dorm project was effectively cancelled/put on hold.
IPM then sued the college appealing the Board’s cancelling of the RFP and alleging that the college had violated various legal requirements it was bound to observe (such as basic State procurement procedures).[ii] The case was settled via a stipulated dismissal, meaning an out-of-court settlement was reached between IPM and NMCC in 2010. IPM also sued NNMC in a related case, which was regarding the college’s refusal to release public records as required by the NM Inspection of Public Records Act.[iii]
Certainly Kevin Powers, per his role as a senior executive at RBC Capital Markets, was involved in the IPM submissions to NMCC that identified RBC as the underwriter of bond for the dorm project. And surely Powers was aware of the IPM/NMCC disputes leading to the aforementioned litigation.
The dorm project effectively went into hibernation until sometime in 2012 or 2013 when the BOR resuscitated it.
Meanwhile, Powers retired from RBC in November, 2012. Just two months later in January 2013 Governor Susana Martinez appointed Powers to the NMCC BOR. However, the state Senate failed to consider confirmation of that appointment and Powers became a “regent-in-waiting” for the duration of 2013, taking his seat only after the state Senate did confirm him in January, 2014.
It is not known what, if any, continuing financial relationships/entanglements Powers may have with RBC Capital Markets as a retired executive of that securities firm.
It was during his “regent-in-waiting” period that the NMCC Board of Regents (led by Michael Branch) revived the dorm project. The dorm project’s second incarnation involved a new company playing the role of project manager. That company was Indiana-based Monument, LLC. Regents Branch and Herrera, who led the new push for dorms, were intimately familiar with the IPM fiasco as they were both serving as Board members in 2008.
In the minutes of the February 2014 NNMC Board of Regents meeting, Regent Herrera gave a report regarding Monument and the dorm project. That meeting was the first meeting attended by retired RBC Director Kevin Powers (immediately following his Senate confirmation). Herrera, according to the minutes, specifically mentioned that Monument’s services on behalf of the dorm project would involve the participation of RBC, newly-installed Regent Kevin Powers’ former employer.
The Monument services being provided to the college vis-à-vis the dorm project and RBC’s role in that endeavor were remarkably similar to those proposed by IPM back in 2008.
Throughout its failed 2013-2014 attempt to build new dorms, NNMC Board of Regents meeting minutes and college-related documents demonstrate RBC assisted Monument in that company’s quest to obtain approval of bonds to be issued to fund the dorm project. That quest met with failure.
NNMC entered into two contractual agreements with Monument, LLC, which total near one-million dollars. The college paid Monument in full for its services performed pursuant to the first contract. But the college has failed to make payments to Monument pursuant to the second contract. NNMC ceased additional payments to Monument coincidentally after to the college failed to obtain endorsement of the dorm project (and issuance of bonds) from the State Board of Finance. That failure effectively killed the dorm project in its second incarnation.
Subsequently Monument’s attorney, Jason Bowles, wrote the college regarding the payments Monument was owed under the second Monument/NMCC contract (roughly $600,000). Bowles suggested mediation (as required under the second contract) as a method for resolving any disputes regarding the unreceived payments. In response, the college filed a State District Court lawsuit against Monument seeking a declaratory judgment stating that the college was not liable for any additional payments to Monument. This action, filed by NMMC’s legal counsel, Basham & Basham of Santa Fe, was a preemptive strike by the college to forestall any debt-collection lawsuit against the college by Monument.
This new dorm-related litigation in which the college is now embroiled may or may not involve some review of the pleadings/evidence in the 2008 IPM lawsuit against NNMC regarding the dorm project.
Of particular interest is the relationship of NNMC Regent Kevin Powers (RBC Capital Markets, former Director) with the 2008-2009 IPM failed dorm project, and his involvement with the 2012-2014 Monument deal, which was assisted by RBC. What were the entanglements as during the resurrection of the dorm project?
What were the discussions between Regent Powers, the NMMC Administration/Board members, and RBC in the 2012-2013 period when Powers was about to retire from RBC? What were the discussions between when Regent Powers was newly retired from RBC, and was a regent-in-waiting as the Monument/NNMC dorm project relationship was initially flowering?
Of particular interest are Regent Powers’ conversations and interactions with his former colleagues at RBC as Monument and RBC efforts to secure bond approval were underway after he took office on NNMC Board in 2014.
We might also ask the propriety of Powers’ involvement with the proposed $16 million dollar dorm deal involving RBC when, according to his 990-T disclosure form to serve on the NNMC Board, Powers and his wife Marci listed annual income over $5,000 as “various stocks bonds & funds 401k & IRA.” What are the amounts Regent Powers and his wife have continued to draw from RBC?
Below is a small excerpt of the May 2014 NNMC Board of Regents meeting, we see Regent Kevin Powers pledging the direct and active support of the NNMC Board members to RBC's current Director Paul Cassidy (4:15).[iv] The intimacy of the continuing relationship between NNMC Regent Powers and RBC Capital Markets will continue to be probed.
[i] For full story and court documents on the lawsuit filed by NNMC against Monument, LLC, see: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blog/nnmcs-barcelo-administration-sues-its-dorm-developer-to-avoid-payment-of-650000-past-due The Rio Grande Sun has also reported on the lawsuit. See story at: http://www.riograndesun.com/articles/2015/04/09/news/doc55259c88b4285872893446.txt
[ii] The case number for that lawsuit, filed in 2008, is D-117-CV-200800427. All of the case-file documents are domiciled at the Rio Arriba County Courthouse (First Judicial District Clerk’s Office) in Tierra Amarilla. All such documents (contained in two large file folders) are hard copies. The case file is not imaged and therefore inspection of those documents requires visit to T.A. These voluminous case file documents reflect/substantiate the narrative above.
[iii] The IPC IPRA case number is D-117-2009-00265.
[iv] NNMC minutes of that Board meeting available online at: http://nnmc.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/BORMinutesMay222014.pdf The RBC Capital Markets presentation by Director Paul Cassidy begins at page 11. Additional excerpts of the RBC and Mondrall Sperling presentation at the May 2014 Board of Regents meeting available on youtube at the NNMC Study Group Channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChVQBq07UoeNxltoa7syzXw/videos