ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A non-profit foundation that supports a New Mexico state museum still owes taxpayers more than $120,000 in misspent funds, but doesn’t have the money to pay it back, a foundation official said.
“I understand the importance of paying back this money,” said Julie Baca, president of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation. “I hope we will be able to pay for it.”
New Mexico Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales said the foundation has until January 2014, the deadline legislators for the money to be paid back. If that doesn’t occur, the Cultural Affairs Department will be on the hook for the tab, she said. That means taxpayers could be charged twice – to the tune of nearly a quarter of a million dollars – for the mistake.
“Well we hope we recover it,” Gonzales said, “but time is running out.”
The money stems from the one-of-a-kind, 4,000-square-foot fresco inside the Torreon at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. Artist Frederico Vigil spent nearly a decade creating the fresco, which depicts 3,000 years of Hispanic history.
Of the fresco’s approximately $800,000 budget, the foundation, under previous President Clara Apodaca, misspent about $285,000, officials have said.
“[The project budget] does not allow things like educational materials, DVDs to be done,” Gonzales said. “And that’s what the foundation spent the money on.”
News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker exposed the fresco fiasco about two years ago.
Initially, the foundation gave the state back $138,361 that had not been spent. But since then, it’s made just one $25,000 payment. That means the cultural center foundation still owes the state $121,639.
The foundation is banking on its yearly fundraiser – set for Saturday at the Hotel Albuquerque – to help repay some the debt. However, Baca said the organization will likely be hard-pressed to meet the January deadline.
“I hope we will” be able to pay the money back, she said.
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