The Robert Vigil Scandal: So What?

Marisa Demarco
3 min read
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When journalists pursue a story, it’s their job to ask themselves two important questions: “Why now?” and “so what?”

We hope to answer these questions, but sometimes, in the case of long-followed stories, the original intent can become unclear. Take, for instance, the scandal involving ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil. With all the ink this puppy’s getting, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The “so what?” is that the Treasurer’s Office oversees $5 billion in state investments. That’s your money they spend up there. It’d be nice if you could trust the man running the joint. The Vigil trial and its spinoff controversy could have helped clear a path through the muck to a more transparent government. That hasn’t happened yet. For those who may have lost sight of the bigger picture, here’s some perspective.

Sept. 16, 2005

Then-State Treasurer Robert Vigil and ex-Treasurer Michael Montoya are arrested and indicted for racketeering — allegedly having taken kickbacks of more than $687,000 from investment advisers.

Sept. 19, 2005

Montoya and Vigil plead not guilty.

Oct. 26, 2005

Vigil resigns from his post while staring down the barrel of possible impeachment after months of government heavys calling for his removal.

Nov. 3, 2005

Republican Douglas Brown is appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to take Vigil’s place.

Nov. 8, 2005

Montoya pleads guilty to one count of extortion and agrees to cooperate with prosecutors.

Nov. 21, 2005

Brown fires five Treasurer’s Office workers, some of whom were relatives or friends of Vigil’s.

Feb. 16, 2006

After word got out of the trouble at the Treasurer’s Office, Richardson puts together a whole mess of anti-corruption bills, most of which fail in the Legislature. SB334, which prevents prospective government contractors from giving campaign money to officials who award the contracts, is the only bill that passes.

April 17, 2006

A jury is selected; opening statements are heard the next day.

April 18, 2006

The courtroom gets muddy, with former treasurer Montoya testifying that he pocketed about $100,000 from a colleague of the governor’s, Guy Riordan. Montoya says he got the dough from Riordan via handoffs in men’s restrooms. Riordan is fired from the Game Commission by the guv.

April 19, 2006

Montoya takes the stand again, saying his total haul during his two terms in the office hit between $2.5 and $5 million, all from investment advisers that received contracts from the Treasurer’s Office.

April 26, 2006

Kent Nelson, a California stockbroker, cries on the witness stand and says he didn’t have an agreement with Vigil to pay him for investment deals. Nelson worked with the FBI in May 2005 and wore a wire during meetings with Vigil.

April 27, 2006

Jan Goodwin, director of the Board of Finance in 2002, testifies that she meant to send a letter to Attorney General Patricia Madrid on her concerns about the Treasurer’s Office. However, it isn’t clear from her time on the stand whether it was sent. Madrid says she didn’t receive the letter. Hijinks ensue between Rep. Heather Wilson and Madrid, who is working to unseat Wilson in the November elections.

May 1, 2006

A longtime employee at the Treasurer’s Office, Judith Espinosa, testifies that she was asked to call investors and seek funds for charities, nonprofits and Democrats’ political interests. She names New Mexico Highlands University President Manny Aragon as one of the beneficiaries.

May 3, 2006

Albuquerque businessman Angelo Garcia, who wore a wire when interacting with Vigil, says they talked about asking banks that did business with the state for contributions to Vigil’s war chest. He also says Nelson paid them both for help in drumming up business.

Timeline assembled using reports from the Associated Press, the Santa Fe New Mexican , the Albuquerque Tribune and the Albuquerque Journal

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