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Pojoaque Superintendent Says Predecessor Kept Financials 'In His Head'

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An internal financial review of Pojoaque Valley School District shows that former superintendent Melville Morgan gave incorrect financial information to members of the School Board.

While approving the search plan for a new superintendent, Board members referenced reporting issues with the previous administration.

Board Member Toby Velasquez went so far as to say Morgan’s time in charge was a “shell game.”

When asked what he meant, Velasquez said an internal review showed Morgan’s financial reports to the Board did not always reflect reality.

“We’re starting to see what we were told then and what we’re finding out now are two different things,” he said.

He cited the District’s cash balance of an example of Morgan’s lack of transparency.

“I don’t think we were getting the true information,” he said. “I think at times it was veiled to be in better status than what it might have been.”

Despite multiple phone calls, Morgan could not be reached for comment before press time.

While multiple District officials confirmed that a financial review is taking place, some disagreed why it started or what the findings reveal.

“I just wanted to have an outside set of eyes look at our expenditures and our spending,” acting superintendent Sondra Adams said.

She said the financial review was simply to check the status of the District after Morgan suddenly resigned from his position in August, and was not due to any concern of wrongdoing on his part.

Morgan, who previously served as chief financial officer at Santa Fe Public Schools, mostly kept financial information between himself and District Chief Financial Officer Michelle Ortiz, which Adams said is why she wanted the review.

“That was a department that Mel kept very close to him and I felt like I needed more strength in that area,” she said. “He had so much knowledge in that department. And he knew it in his head, not written down or always shared.”

Board President Jon Paul Romero also said that Morgan’s reports were not very transparent.

“He did have a tendency to move some money around from grants and stuff until money got reimbursed,” he said.

Romero also said the District’s last audit was clean—however, the audit had five total findings.

One of the primary findings was that the District had a negative balance of more than $1.1 million and had repeatedly moved money from restricted funds in the General Fund, a violation of state law. Auditors also made the same finding the previous fiscal year.

Both Romero and Adams, though, said the audit played no role in their decision to start an internal financial review. Romero said the deficit was due to the District waiting for reimbursements and that they are now in the black.

One of the main points of frustration for Board members stemmed from the District’s sale of its softball fields. Romero said that money was supposed to be earmarked for future land purchases, but Morgan used it to balance the budget without consulting the Board.

“We were a little bit disappointed,” he said.

Velasquez said none of Morgan’s actions caused his resignation in July and that he has not contacted the former superintendent since the financial review began.

“The past is in the past,” he said.

Morgan did not state any specific reasons for leaving in his letter of resignation.

Romero, Adams and Velasquez each said the Pojoaque Valley is not facing any financial difficulties at the moment.

Adams said Nancy Ross, a local business administrator, was contracted for the review and will be paid $2,276 for her services.

The Pojoaque Valley Educational Foundation, founded in 2016, recently established its own bank account. Previously, Morgan—who did not serve on the Foundation’s Board—handled all the nonprofit’s money, which was kept in a separate fund in the District’s budget, and wrote all the checks.

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