By Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission and its executive director are failing to meet their fiscal responsibilities, according to audit findings released by State Auditor Brian Colón.

Colón this week made public details of the commission’s business operations for previous fiscal years. The commission has been on the auditor’s at-risk list for consecutive years due to its failure to submit annual audits on time.

“The executive director’s own responses to the findings state he has implemented procedures to resolve the issues, but to date we have not seen what those procedures are,” Colón said in a statement. “As a result, it is deeply troubling these shortcomings continue to be repeated. The commission’s stakeholders deserve better.”

Commission executive director Leonard Waites, who took over in 2017, vowed to provide the auditor’s office with details of the policies and procedures by Dec. 21.

The commission’s problems go back years. The former executive director and two others were convicted of felony embezzlement and fraud for offenses that occurred from 2013 through 2015.

The commission was created to promote the late civil rights leader’s philosophy of nonviolence, unity and opportunity for all through various programs. It organizes MLK youth leadership conferences and other events around Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Among the issues identified by the audits, the commission failed to provide invoices and other documentation to support spending. Internal controls related to governance and management also were insufficient.

The auditor’s office said it plans to continue monitoring the commission’s progress and asked commission board members to do the same.

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