Failed Dem candidate, husband blew public cash on lavish trips, luxuries

Western New Mexico University (WNMU), a small institution in Silver City, has come under scrutiny for extravagant spending by its administrators, revealed in a financial review by Searchlight New Mexico. The university, with around 3,500 students, has been spending substantial amounts on international trips and high-end furniture. Since 2018, WNMU President Joseph Shepard has embarked on trips to Zambia, Spain, and Greece in an effort to attract international students and their out-of-state tuition dollars. These trips, costing nearly $100,000 over the last five years, have involved other university executives, members of the WNMU Board of Regents, and Shepard’s wife, former CIA operations officer and Congressional candidate Valerie Plame, all funded by the university.

Locally, Shepard has utilized university funds, around $27,740, to furnish his on-campus residence at Seret and Sons, a Santa Fe retailer known for its luxurious offerings. Shepard defended the expense, emphasizing the need to entertain potential donors with an environment fitting their expectations. Despite the considerable costs incurred in travel, lodging, and furnishing, the university has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis on these expenditures. Only 64 of the current 3,500 students, less than 2% of the total student body, are international students, and more than a third of them come from Mexico.

Shepard justifies these expenses as long-term investments, contributing to a strategic plan to increase the school’s international population. He also emphasizes the importance of the president’s residence looking presidential for fundraising events. However, former university leaders and critics argue that this perceived opulence contradicts the region’s blue-collar history and economic reality, with nearly 30% of the town living below the poverty line.

In addition to international travel expenses, financial records reveal reservations at high-end hotels in the United States, including stays at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, a $12,000 expenditure to lease a 5,400-square-foot home in Santa Fe for two months, and a one-night stay at a Scottsdale, Arizona, resort accompanied by a $119 breakfast totaling over $1,000.

The university, founded in 1893, is located between the Gila National Forest and historic mines, emphasizing its mission to represent the diverse population of southwest New Mexico as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

Shepard, who assumed the role of president in 2011, oversees a nearly $75 million budget and receives a $365,000 salary. Despite increased international relationships, particularly with Mexico, critics question the value of these expenditures, especially given the university’s 31% graduation rate. Concerns are also raised about the impact on local low-income students as tuition increases, and they argue that the budget could be more responsibly managed.

Shepard’s spending history faced legal challenges in 2018 when Brenda Findley, the university’s former vice president of business affairs, filed a lawsuit against the WNMU Board of Regents, alleging improprieties in the expenditure of public funds. The whistleblower suit was settled this summer with a payout exceeding $160,000 to Findley. Despite record levels of inflation and state-mandated employee raises, WNMU raised tuition by 3% the same month, further raising concerns about funding priorities and the impact on local students. Critics argue that Western New Mexico University, though potentially great, needs to focus on serving its local students rather than spending exorbitantly to attract students from other regions.


19 thoughts on “Failed Dem candidate, husband blew public cash on lavish trips, luxuries”

  1. The corruption just conintues, it’s totally disgusting how these people get away with things like this. He so needs to be investigated and charged and yes, prosecuted, and thrown in prison.

  2. My grandmother was on the former Teachers College board of regents (now WNMU)in the early 1900s. She quit in protest because the president at that time bought cigars for the board of regents. She would be horrified about these expenditures.

  3. Joe Shepard and his flaky high society wife, Valerie Plame, certainly enjoy living exotically on the taxpayers’ dime. This waste has got to be stopped immediately by the WNMU Board of Regents.

  4. So… what does one really get for what too many of these universities turn out these days? Is this just another rip off for those who are paying extravagant tuition, only to be left with debt that may take decades to pay off, and still end up with a “field” of study that doesn’t get them that high paying job? Too many students are learning free speech is bad, therefore, must think as the “educated” do, because everyone else is a deplorable ignorant person. The shut up and sit down attitude can only go so far. So… how much funding goes to administrators to do what? How much goes to maintain/buildings, or other necessary equipment (such as equipment in labs to keep current for research projects?) Could salaries be cut to reduce tuition? Probably not… increases of tuition are necessary to keep up with the administrative/instructive personnel so they can keep up with their expected lifestyle of luxury. After all, this mid/upper level personnel are better than the ignorant lower class. Right? AND… certainly the mid-upper administrators could never lower themselves to clean their work place toilet, that would be just plain offensive. How dare I think like this? Whoops… almost forgot… I’m that person who needs to shut up and sit down.

  5. Findley files a complaint; She then gets $165,000 for what? If the complaint was a “whistle blower” about misused money, how does she get a payout?? I don’t understand. What am I not seeing?

    1. Well I look at she will be saving the tax payers lots of money. She most likely quit her job for fear of her life. She also lost he wages when she quit and another employers may not hire her. So she will not have income. I think we need to thankful to her. Then how much h has the others filtered out of the funds. Theft is theft no matter how much or who is doing it.

  6. Torres is not going to do any thing. What would our Democrat state auditor do? Keep the corruption covered up is the main function of the Auditor. On a smaller scale, trying to attract these “International” students is what the problems Penn, MIT & Harvard are NOW having. We do not need outside influence in any of our colleges. Yes all those huge endowments need to be TAXED! We pay these clowns huge amounts of $$$ to get this type of BS in return. They graduate 30%?

  7. Th first thing that got my attention is the wife worked for the CIA. The CIA is similar to what the Nazis had which was the SS the strongest arm of the party. Why would anyone trust the CIA or anyone married to someone in the CIA. Another red flag is the school represent the diverse population of southwest New Mexico as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. NM is more than a Hispanic state. It is sad to see the racism against non hispanics which is prevalent across NM legislators. Many of the community recognizes it but feel powerless to do anything. We have one that we Call Slick Willie as he tells Spanish speakers things that he will not tell the non hispanics. Heck he told me he does not does not work for us. Sounds just like Santa Fe. The final thing, who made the rules to limit/not limit what and where these folks travel. Obviously the guys contract needs to be rewritten to stop the crazy spending. Why would a university even do a contract that allows no oversight. NM is the worst in almost every measurable matrix. We can do better for our children by starting to hold people accountable. Come on these are supposed to be educated people. How about educated criminals that do not give a crap about NMs. Put some business people in charge as scholars will be the downfall of our nation. We the People are supposed to be in charge. Let’s get to it.

  8. Any of you think you can do better? And all the name calling and bs shows exactly what is wrong with the USA. It’s all about me, instead of us, so grow a pair or move to another state if you don’t like it here, Es todo!

  9. And after the facts were presented at the Regent’s meeting instead of the sensationalism (including some very offensive racism in front of students at the meeting), it turns out that the graduation rates that were claimed to be so low only counted incoming freshmen, not all the students returning to complete degrees or students that took gen eds there and moved on to other schools. Turns out people caught up in the “horror” of fresh flowers don’t understand that graduation flowers just don’t have the same impact when they are plastic bouquets from the Dollar Store. This isn’t a community college. It is a master’s granting university in many fields and is actively developing certificate programs for the trades.
    Shepard deserves kudos for the substantial fundraising success that allows this school to better serve students locally, in distance learning and to bring education in the trades to Southwest NM.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top