NMMI Alumni answers lawsuit

August 6, 2013 • Local News



A court date has yet to be scheduled to determine the fate of the lawsuit between the New Mexico Military Institute and its Alumni Association, court officials said Monday.

But the Alumni Association’s long-awaited re-sponse to the Institute’s lawsuit, filed last week, makes it clear that the group intends to fight to keep hold of its more than $5 million in funds and its organization.

The Association’s delayed response was a matter of professional courtesy, the Association’s attorney said.

Jeff Dahl, of Keleher & McLeod in Albuquerque, said he asked NMMI for more time.

“When we were in the process of being retained, I was going to be out of town for several of weeks,” Dahl said. “It was agreed we would file a response on the 31st of [auth] July, as we did.”

The lawsuit, now in the hands of Eddy County Judge Jane Shuler-Gray in Carlsbad, was first filed by NMMI June 10. Typically, a response by the defendant is filed 30 days later.

The Association’s series of answers to NMMI’s case demonstrate it plans to fight allegations of past financial trouble, management turnover and assertions that the group’s function is to serve the school and its cadets.

The response contends the Institute “engineered a series of events with the goal of changing the Association from a stand-alone (nonprofit) to a “supporting organization,” which would allow the Institute access to the Association’s funds.

Asserting that NMMI failed to state how its case was legally grounded, the Association argues in its response that NMMI’s lawsuit is a culmination of an attempt to gain control over the group and its funds.

When that didn’t happen, NMMI banished the Association from its campus office, seized its database, financial records, membership lists and filed the lawsuit when the Association did not comply with these attempts, the Association argues in its filing.

NMMI set out a series of financial and management concerns that started in 2009. By 2009, the Institute “was compelled to take further and more far reaching steps to protect its interests and to ensure the protection of the assets maintained by the Association,” NMMI argues in its filing.

The Institute ended its nearly 50-year relationship with the Association in April. The Association was locked out of its offices on campus and recently signed a lease for office space at the Best Western Sally Port Inn and Suites.

The Association now operates separately after hiring a new executive director, while continuing to solicit donations.

The Institute and the Association also disagree on the main function of the Association.

In the lawsuit, NMMI states the Association’s principal authorized purpose is to serve and support the Institute.

“Nothing could be further from the truth, and the Institute’s continual insistence on this point demonstrates the desperate need for the Association to remain separate and independent from the Institute,” according to the Association’s response.

The Association asserts that it “serves and supports alumni of the Institute as its primary purpose and focus.”

The Association’s attorney declined to comment on details of the case Monday.

“We believe the pleadings speak for themselves,” Dahl said.

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