ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - A manager at public TV station KNME claims the University of New Mexico fired her for inquiring too closely into the disappearance of millions of dollars in station funds.
Joanne Bachmann says she complained that the university grabbed more than $2 million that should have gone to the station.
In the fall of 2001, the university (UNM) "alleged that KNME had an accumulated operating deficit of $750,000" and "created a 'loan' to KNME ... and set up a schedule for repayment from KNME net operating funds," Bachmann says in her complaint in Bernalillo County Court.
KNME managers asked her to review the station's finance "to trade the sources and uses of funds and particularly the expenditure of public funds by KNME and UNM," Bachmann said.
Bachmann says she found that UNM had been "retaining for its own use the interest earned on balances of grant funds awarded to KNME by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," and that "UNM had been charging KNME accounts for utilities and custodial expenses at the same time it was receiving funds from the state legislature to cover those expenses."
"The impact of these practices since 1992 was the removal of more than $2 million from station accounts by and for the benefit of UNM."
Bachmann claims UNM "acknowledged and discontinued the above practices in 2004," but never returned $400,000 in so-called "loan payments" it had already taken from KNME accounts.
In November 2004, she says, voters approved a $2.3 million general obligation bond to upgrade the station's digital TV channel. But in the winter of 2006, "over written objections from Ms. Bachmann to UNM counsel and other administration official, acting UNM president David Harris signed an agreement to redistribute the bond funds for the political benefit of UNM."
That cost KNME $1.2 million, Bachmann says. When she and members of the station's advisory board "raised concerns about this misuse of public funds," she says, "UNM retaliated by removing three of the board members."
She says she discovered more discrepancies in 2007, due to charge-backs and fund transfers, again from KNME to UNM.
Co-defendant M.K. Polly Anderson was hired as KNME general manager in September 2008. Bachmann says Anderson to her "to drop the matter" of the misdirected bond money, and the charge-backs.
"Ms. Anderson ordered Ms. Bachmann to 'drop it,' knowing the investigation was likely to uncover unlawful or improper acts by UNM," the complaint states.
When Bachmann refused to "drop it," she says, she was retaliated against and fired.
She seeks reinstatement, damages for breach of contract and violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act, costs and a protective injunction.
She is represented by Steven Granberg.