Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Investment council member questions NM film loans

A newly appointed member of the State Investment Council has questioned whether New Mexico should use an endowment fund to make interest-free loans to films.

Former state Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, a Las Cruces Republican, voiced his doubts Tuesday as the council agreed to temporarily extend a contract with a Hollywood lawyer to advise the state on film investments.

The contract with Peter Dekom will be extended through May while the council looks to hire a permanent film adviser through a competitive bidding process.

New Mexico can lend up to $15 million to a film project produced in the state, and Dekom recommends whether the council should approve the investments.

The council last month extended Dekom's contract through April and he was paid a monthly rate of nearly $15,000 -- roughly half of what his previous $350,000-a-year contract provided.

Rawson said he wanted a report analyzing whether the film loans have been a successful investment for the state. He and another council member expressed doubts about the program.

"I don't know that we have a mandate to stay in film," said Rawson, who was named to the council last month by the Legislature.

Peter Frank, a board member and retired corporate executive from Santa Fe, said, "We've given up a lot of return on our assets."

Katherine Miller, a board member and secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, defended the film program, pointing out it was an economically targeted investment with a goal of fostering a film industry in New Mexico.

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