Governor’s Office Kept Legislators, and Others in the Dark Re: $750,000 Aid to Company Owned by Speaker Egolf’s Wife.

As discussed with Tripp, this will go to a condensed media list and post to our web site, but no social, no amplification, no distribution to state employees, PIOs, or Legislature.

Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2020, the Governor’s Economic Development Department (EDD) was getting ready to announce the awarding of $750,000 in Local Economic Development Act funding to New Mexico Fresh Foods. The company was founded in 2018 by Kelly Egolf, who had previously arranged financing of more than $2 million for the enterprise from several wealthy Santa Fe investor/partners and a non-profit foundation.

Egolf is the wife of local attorney Brian Egolf, who at the time of the awarding of the LEDA grant was the Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Within weeks of Michelle Lujan Grisham being sworn in as Governor of New Mexico in 2019, Kelly Egolf began working with the new administration developing an application seeking up to $1 million in financial help from the state to assist her and her investor/partners’ company.

Kelly Egolf’s ownership in the company was identified by Mark Roper, the Division Director for Economic Development (EDD), as being between 47%-48%, and she was listed in documents filed with EDD as a Class A member and the managing partner of the limited liability company.

At about the same time, Egolf’s company received an impact investment loan of $375,000, from the Santa Fe Community Foundation – a non-profit powerhouse organization in northern New Mexico known for community philanthropy and collaborating with hundreds of local nonprofits, and committed to addressing the most pressing needs in Northern New Mexico.

Between the winter of 2019, and the summer of 2020, Egolf courted the Lujan Grisham administration on several levels, finally getting the green light for a LEDA grant of $750,000 via an email from the Governor’s chief political advisor Dominic Gabello on August 7, 2020.

There remained two steps for the Lujan Grisham economic development team to wrap up – the announcement of the award, and finishing the paperwork which was supposed to protect the state’s investment and the ensure Egolf’s promise to create more than sixty (60) new jobs at New Mexico Fresh Foods.

The practice of the Governor’s team was to announce the LEDA grant soon after the decision was made, but deal with the paperwork later, as it would take a few months to finalize the agreements.

These type of grants not only represent commercial capital for businesses, they provide political capital for elected officials – so traditionally, an announcement of an award takes place at a well promoted press conference with as much media attendance as possible.

However, the Governor’s office, apparently concerned about the optics of providing $750,000 in funding to a company owned and run by the wife of the House Speaker, decided to keep this announcement on the relative ‘down low.’

On Friday, November 20, 2020, the Economic Development public information officer (PIO) emailed the following to his boss and the Governor’s key advisors Gabello and Tripp Stelnicki:

“I am planning to send the LEDA PR for NM Fresh Foods, owned by Kelly Egolf, at about 2 p.m. this afternoon. As discussed with Tripp, this will go to a condensed media list and post to our web site, but no social, no amplification, no distribution to state employees, PIOs, or Legislature.

The administration’s publicity team further attempted to avoid attention to the Egolf connection, by not mentioning Kelly Egolf’s name until about two-thirds from the beginning of the very long press release – a press release packed with quotes from others.

And apparently, just in case anyone noticed the connection to the Speaker, the PIO suggested that questions be sent his way – and that “Speaker Egolf has no ownership interest.

The next article will focus on the matters related to the job creation provisions in the agreements between New Mexico Fresh Foods and the state and county government.

Job creation requirements that went unmet – consistently and dramatically.

Below is a copy of the email referenced above and sent by the NM Economic Development Department PIO to his Boss and the Governor’s Chief Political and Press people.