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2nd Sen. Tied to Artificial Turf Firm
Posted by () on May 21 2008 at 7:22 PM
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     A second state senator, Republican John Ryan of Albuquerque, worked for an artificial turf company that obtained jobs funded by the Legislature.
     Capitol Consultants, a company owned by Ryan, registered in October 2006 as a Washington, D.C., lobbyist for Real Turf & Putting Greens.
     Ryan said he was paid $5,000 a month to help Real Turf seek federal contracts but said he severed the relationship after two months.
     "I didn't do anything for this guy (Real Turf President Richard B. "Rick" Wickens) or that company on the state level," the senator said Monday.
     The Journal reported Monday that Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, worked as a $5,000-a-month consultant for Real Turf for about eight months beginning in June 2005.
     Carraro's involvement with Real Turf was more extensive.
While on the Real Turf payroll as a business consultant, he proposed appropriations that went to Real Turf after Carraro no long worked for the company.
     He had disclosed his relationship and denies using his legislative position to aid Real Turf.
At least $943,000 in state appropriations have gone to Real Turf for installation of artificial grass at schools and ballfields in Albuquerque in the past few years.
     Real Turf has also done other state-funded jobs in Rio Rancho and elsewhere in New Mexico.
     None of the appropriations was specifically earmarked for the company, but schools and other governmental entities could enter into no-bid deals with Real Turf because it had a price agreement with the U.S. General Services Administration.
     Ryan said he didn't know until he read the Journal story on Monday that state appropriations were used to fund installation of artificial grass by Real Turf.
     "I didn't know he (Wickens) was out there trying to get state contracts," Ryan said.
Ryan said he "probably would have recused myself" from voting if he had known that spending bills included appropriations for artificial turf.
     In 2007, Ryan proposed a $640,000 appropriation for the Eastdale Little League in Albuquerque that called for installation of artificial turf on ballfields.
     The city spent about $183,000 on fake grass for the fields, with $50,000 of that going to Real Turf.
     Despite the fact that he sponsored the legislation specifying artificial turf, Ryan said Monday he didn't recall ever having done so.
     He also noted that he was no longer working for the company at that time.
     Schools, cities and other governmental entities routinely ask legislators to sponsor funding requests for capital projects, and the senator said he typically introduces them as proposed.
     "We basically take the request as given to us," he said.
     Colette Jury, a former board member for Eastdale Little League who worked on the funding request for the artificial turf, said Ryan was one of four or five senators who agreed to propose funding for the project.
     Real Turf filed for bankruptcy in September 2007, six months after the FBI searched its office in connection with a bank-fraud investigation of Wickens. He hasn't been charged.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court records indicate Real Turf is no longer in business.
     Wickens couldn't be reached for comment.

Canceled deal
     Ryan, through Capitol Consultants, has been a Washington lobbyist for the electric power industry for several years. Prior to that, he was a congressional staffer.
     He served as executive director of the state Republican Party before being elected to the Senate in 2004. He is seeking re-election this year.
     Ryan said he has known the Wickens family for several years but couldn't recall how he ended up agreeing to be a lobbyist for Real Turf.
     He said he agreed to perform federal advocacy services for the company, including introducing Wickens to members of Congress and their staffs, as well as workers in federal agencies that had a need to purchase artificial grass.
     The senator said he and Real Turf signed a yearlong contract.
     He said he canceled the deal after two months after being told by a Wickens family member that he shouldn't be involved with Rick Wickens because of possible trouble.

 

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