Santa Fe Bank for Insurance Division Donated to Nonprofit Group Founded by Insurance Superintendent

March 21, 2006

The Santa Fe, N.M., bank that acts as a depository for the state Insurance Division has been a generous contributor to an organization founded by the state insurance superintendent.

The Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story Sunday that Century Bank of Santa Fe has donated more than $124,000 to Con Alma since winning the insurance depository contract in 2003. The nonprofit organization was founded in late 2001 by Eric Serna, who signed off on Century’s contract.

The bank, partly owned by Santa Fe businessman Jerry Peters, oversees about $400 million in state insurance deposits and collects almost $800,000 in annual fees for its services.

The only banks that made major donations through 2004 were the ones that held the contract, according to Internal Revenue Service reports filed by Con Alma.

Bryan J. Chippeaux, chairman and CEO of Century Bank, said the bank contributed to Con Alma “to make a strong statement about our commitment to Santa Fe and Espanola.”

Robert Desiderio, executive director of Con Alma, said the contributions had nothing to do with the state contract.

“We tell all the people with whom we do business, and it’s normal, that we expect them to make a contribution,” he said. “The contribution they give is dependent up on their desires. And yes, Mr. Peters is a large donor, a very large donor. I cannot deny that.”

Peters’ other businesses also contributed at least $3,000 to the re-election campaign of former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, whose signature was required for the contract’s approval.

In 2005, the bank received a two-year contract extension and won a fee increase that exceeded the maximum set by the state Insurance Code. Serna and Vigil approved those.

Peters, in a written reply, said he never has made contributions linked to the bank’s business. He said the contract award did not involve any hidden deals or understandings.

“I want to stress in the strongest possible terms, that nothing occurred that could be viewed as improper,” he wrote.

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