ENMU clarifies missing funds

Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — An Eastern New Mexico University official said Tuesday that most of the money alleged to have been embezzled by a former university employee came from the New Mexico Higher Education Assessment Association.

Tammy Jo Garcia, 32, is charged with embezzling $138,314 from a NMHEAA fund and $1,359 from ENMU, according to an affidavit.

Ronnie Birdsong, ENMU’s vice president of relations, confirmed the bulk of the missing money is from NMHEAA.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Eastern New Mexico University and Portales police in the investigation of this matter,” Dan Brown, president of the NMHEAA, said in a press release. “Published accounts refer to funds having been embezzled from a school (ENMU) account. This was not the case. The overwhelming majority of the alleged embezzlement involved an NMHEAA account separate from ENMU funds.”

As a member of the NMHEAA, Eastern agreed to provide secretarial support to the association, according to the affidavit.

Brown said the NMHEAA fund provides money for an annual conference in Albuquerque of association representatives. The fund also provides money for a summer retreat in Ruidoso and to distribute information on a Web site.

Garcia is charged with embezzlement over $20,000, 70 counts of forgery and tampering with evidence. The maximum punishments are nine years for the count of embezzlement, three years for the count of tampering with evidence and three years for each forgery count, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney officials.

Neither Birdsong, Brown nor district attorney officials could state how much money has been recovered, if any.