Commissioners ask for more transparency on investments

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Asking for more transparency and concluding their communication problems lie with Treasurer Bernice Baker, Curry County commissioners seemed satisfied Wednesday with an explanation of investments during a lengthy study session.

Investment Advisor Rob Burpo, owner of Albuquerque-based First American Financial Advisor Inc., gave commissioners a 3 1/2 hour presentation, explaining market conditions, how bonds are bought and sold and how the county’s accounts are managed.

The commission asked for the meeting after it did not receive monthly reports for almost five months on a $2.3 million investment account and then learned the account was losing money.

Burpo caled it a misunderstanding, telling commissioners the Macquarie Allegiance Capital account was not losing at all.

He said it gained almost $9,000 since a Dec. 31 statement that showed a near $20,000 value decrease in the account.

“I don’t like it when things get misunderstood or miscommunicated for whatever reason,” he said.

Commissioners pressed Burpo about not being told when the account took a turn downward in December and they continued having trouble getting answers.

“In this last week we tried to get information and we couldn’t get it. That’s ridiculous …There’s a lack of communication it seems,” Commissioner Dan Stoddard said.

Burpo said he has been in continual contact with Baker regarding the county’s investments. He said he provides monthly reports to commissioners in addition to account statements and the treasurer should be able to provide information and answer questions.

Vice Chairman Caleb Chandler asked if Burpo would alert them, and, “If things start going south, make sure (Baker) knows about it.”

“Commissioner Chandler, I will give you as much information as your little heart desires, but I don’t know how involved you want me to be,” Burpo said.

“It seems there was a perception we had lost money, that is not true,” Chairman Bobby Sandoval said.

“Maybe we need to communicate with our treasurer better.”

Commissioner Wendell Bostwick voiced frustration over concerns about the account.

“Anyone who doesn’t think (Burpo’s) done a good job better go check his numbers,” he said.

Baker told commissioners she has been having difficulty balancing the investment account in her books and has been receiving help from the county’s finance manager. Those difficulties, she said, were delaying her reports to the commission.

“I know balancing is a big part of my job, but there are other things happening in that office,” she said.

The treasurer is solely responsible for managing the county’s investments.

Burpo also explained to commissioners his fee, .40 percent of funds he manages, is capped at $20,000 and covers his services for all of the county’s holdings.

Macquarie Allegiance Capital receives an additional .26 percent.