When will our state ever learn?

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By Ralph Damiani

First, you create a state agency that has a very unclear duty, give it no budget and then continue to name controversial people to head it.

Welcome to the New Mexico Film Museum.

First, Gov. Richardson appointed former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron to the post at a salary of more than $85,000-per-year. You know her, the person being investigated by the federal government for misusing election funds.

Not only that, she was to earn about $8,000 more than the last director. This despite the fact the museum has no budget, archives, collections or an office.

But the outcry over this appointment last year forced the governor to withdraw the nomination.

Lesson learned? Apparently not.

Last week, the governor named Sharon D. Maloof, who is currently assistant secretary for the Department of Tourism, to replace India Hatch, who served as director of the Film Museum since 2006.

The appointment was made – according to the governor – to “use Sharon’s expertise in tourism to promote a further enhancement of the film industry and promote the state as a film tourism destination, which includes coming to see the sites (in New Mexico) where films were made.”

However, the museum, created in 2003, still doesn’t have an operating budget.

The problem with Maloof is that she has a history that could be better.

When she was Deputy Tourism secretary, she agreed to repay the state more than $6,600 for cell phone calls, luxury hotel bills, taxi cab fares and other items related to European trips.

She had racked up $26,023.

“I apologize for any appearance of excessive use of public funds,” Maloof said at the time. “It has always been my intention to represent the state in the most positive light.”

As the department’s international tourism director, Maloof attended several trade shows and conferences. And she ran up some good tabs.

But that is apparently water under the bridge. And it will cost us much more than Vigil-Giron.

According to a database of salaries of exempt employees appointed by the governor published last year, Maloof earns $98,098.88 a year.

Hatch earns roughly $90,000 as Film Museum director. She ran the New Mexico Racing Commission and was also interim director of the Gaming Control Board before her tenure at the Film Museum. She will return to the Racing Commission as deputy director.

We hope that the fact that this past election Maloof contributed more than $6,600 to Democrats – and $4,600 to Richardson – had no impact on her appointment. We hope not.

We really hope not.

But we just don’t seem to learn from our mistakes so we have our doubts.