New Mexico Public Regulation Commission names Propst new chief of staff

Rick Ruggles, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·2 min read

Mar. 31—A New Mexico agency that has seen its share of controversy hired a chief of staff Wednesday who has served in government and knows controversy as well.

Wayne Propst was named the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission's chief of staff on a unanimous vote.

He will replace Jason Montoya, who has served as acting chief of staff for more than two years. Commissioners said Montoya declined the permanent job.

Propst most recently headed the staff of the state Senate Finance Committee and before that led the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association. He is a 1987 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University and a 1990 graduate of the law school at the University of New Mexico.

He will receive $150,000 a year and start work April 19.

Among other things, Propst was criticized two years ago for the way he handled pay raises on the retirement association, including raises for himself. Propst said the criticism was unfounded and the state auditor said evidence showed Propst had "acted reasonably and within his authority."

He also faced an ethics complaint last year alleging he gave misleading information about legislation involving the retirement association.

The law was aimed at making the state pension system solvent and did that in part by changing cost-of-living increases for public retirees. The complaint alleged Propst misrepresented the changes the legislation would make.

The State Ethics Commission said Wednesday it treats pending complaints with confidentiality. But in the commission's year of existence, the general counsel has found probable cause of wrongdoing in no cases, spokesman Sonny Haquani said.

Propst called the accusation frivolous and became chief of staff of the state Senate Finance Committee soon after.

As for the commission, it will become a governor-appointed body instead of an elected one in 2023. The commission, which regulates utilities and some other industries, has long been criticized as having members who didn't understand the complex work of the committee.

New Mexico voters agreed on a ballot initiative to change the way commissioners are selected.

Propst said on a Zoom call with commissioners Wednesday that he was honored to get the job. "I'm ready to get to work and I will see you at 8 o'clock Monday April 19th if not sooner," he said.

Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann of Las Cruces responded: "We need all the talent we can get and you're obviously a critical piece."

This is a developing story. Check back for details.