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Friday, November 28, 2014

Garcia wants to return to campus

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Former UNM President F. Chris Garcia

news@dailylobo.com
@ArdeeTheJourno

For one former UNM president, reinstatement “would be a wonderful holiday gift.”

F. Chris Garcia, who faced charges of promoting prostitution in 2011, said that although he is not yet planning to file a formal letter of reinstatement to the University any time soon, he expects UNM to restore all his privileges on campus as a faculty member.

“In fact, this was supposed to be a temporary situation,” he said. “The suspension should be short-term. It’s been two and a half years now. I think this now seems long term. At some point, I would like to have all my privileges as a professor emeritus restored at UNM.”

In June 2011, Albuquerque Police Department arrested Garcia, 71, along with UNM professor David Flory and five other people who managed the site Southwestcompanions.com, an alleged online prostitution ring.

But in January, the New Mexico Supreme Court stated that no state law prohibited running the website, since according to state law, prostitution can only occur in a physical location, not in cyberspace, and dismissed the case. Last month, the Second District Judicial Court ruled that authorities should return Garcia’s seized property because all investigations regarding the case have concluded.

Garcia said that according to his letter of suspension from then-UNM President David Schmidly, his suspension should be temporary.

He said that because all investigations have finished and because he was acquitted of charges, he expects the University to make the first move toward his reinstatement.

“I have not heard from the University of New Mexico,” he said. “If this is a temporary and short-term suspension, which I was to believe it is, I think some action from the University ending this suspension ought to be forthcoming.”

Robert Gorence, the lawyer who handled Garcia’s case, said that to be reinstated, Garcia needs to express a formal desire to do so to UNM. Gorence said he will not be directly involved with the reinstatement process, although he will be willing to help Garcia.

“He may write a letter to the president at some point,” Gorence said. “I believe that’s all that’s required requesting the president for reinstatement of all his privileges.”

But according to a statement from UNM President Robert Frank, the University has not contacted Garcia about reinstatement because Garcia had not yet sent a request letter.

“We have not received any official correspondence from F. Chris Garcia requesting action on the part of the University or asking for clarification of his status, so at this point it remains unchanged,” Frank said.

Frank said that with the court ruling last month, Garcia’s office property has been returned to the University. UNM will carry out further investigation “from the perspective of the University’s policies, ethics and our codes of conduct” before deciding with the regents whether to grant Garcia’s reinstatement, Frank said.

Although Garcia’s case was dropped and he was not charged with any crime, Frank said he is “deeply concerned about the negative impact” of Garcia’s reinstatement to the University.

“Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, F. Chris Garcia’s significant lapse in judgment in associating with a website that facilitated the exchange of sex for money, the extensive media coverage surrounding this case and his recent engagement of the media through letters and interviews continue to put the name of this University in a damaging light,” Frank said. “As president of UNM — an institution that serves young women and men — it is my responsibility to make every effort to safeguard the reputation of our University.”

Garcia said that foremost, he wants the University to lift its ban on his visits to campus facilities.

“I will not ask for an office,” he said. “I will not ask for a teaching contract. But I do want the other privileges that were temporarily suspended. The one that’s most bothersome to me is that ex-President Schmidly requested that I would not go on to campus. We have an open campus. Any person can come from right across the street. To be told that I am not welcome … is particularly vindictive.”

As it stands, Garcia can only visit campus with prior approval from Frank and from UNMPD Chief Kathy Guimond. A designated person would also be required to accompany him if his requests for visits were authorized.

Despite his campus ban, the former president also retains his professor emeritus status at the University. Garcia said he also continues to receive retirement pensions as part of the Education Retirement Act, but he declined to identify the exact amount.

Garcia said he is hopeful that UNM will reinstate him soon. He said he apologizes to the University community about the scandal that he caused.

“I apologize for any embarrassment that the allegations caused to UNM,” he said. “I spent 48 years at UNM — seven as a student and 41 as a faculty and staff. I love the University of New Mexico and again feel good about my affiliation with the University. This would be a good time of the year for it to happen.”