Serving the High Plains

Offices investigating ex-Mesalands president's claims

An official with the state’s Higher Education Department said the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and Office of State Auditor are investigating claims the former president of Mesalands Community College made against the Tucumcari institution.

David Mathews, general counsel for the HED, stated in an email Thursday that former Mesalands president John Groesbeck contacted his agency shortly after his firing by the college this spring.

“Staff immediately reported his allegations to the Office of the State Auditor (OSA),” Mathews wrote. “We understand the OSA and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office (NMAG) are working in collaboration to investigate the claims and audit the necessary components of the institution.

“The Higher Education Department will work with the OSA and NMAG to determine if a parallel review of Mesalands operations is necessary.”

Groesbeck earlier this month filed a lawsuit against Mesalands after his firing in April, alleging whistleblower violations and retaliation.

In the eight-page suit, Groesbeck stated he confronted the college’s foundation members, many whom also are on the board of trustees, at a board meeting March 3 about allegations of improper distribution of federal grant funds, fraudulent property leases and improper appropriation of money to the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum. He also accused an official of overpayments to some faculty members.

Two weeks later, Groesbeck was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave after a closed executive session during a board of trustees meeting. He was fired without explanation during the trustees’ next meeting in April.

Groesbeck stated in the lawsuit he also contacted the college’s auditors, Atkinson & Co. of Albuquerque, about alleged overpayments in December.

“The auditors agreed that this practice was an ‘abuse’ and that it warranted further investigation,” the lawsuit states.

An attempt to reach officials at Atkinson & Co. for comment was unsuccessful.

The Mesalands board of trustees in January approved the college’s most recent annual audit by Atkinson & Co. That audit was submitted in November, before Groesbeck states he reported the alleged overpayments.

Josh McVey, Mesalands’ director of public relations, stated on behalf of the college about Groesbeck’s lawsuit: “We have no comment at this time.”

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