Former N.M. Insurance Superintendent Must Appear for Deposition

October 30, 2006

A judge has ruled that former New Mexico Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna and his former deputy must appear for depositions in a lawsuit that contends a Santa Fe couple paid too much for title insurance.

Serna and Joe Ruiz did not attend a hearing on the matter Friday before District Judge James Hall.

The two have asked Hall to keep the plaintiffs from asking them anything other than their names at a deposition, according to court documents. Serna and Ruiz have said they intend to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Hall said he typically proceeds with depositions, then decides on Fifth Amendment issues on a case-by-case basis.

“There’s no legal basis to force the plaintiff to wait,” he said.

The lawsuit claims that title insurance firms gave nearly $48,000 to Con Alma, a health foundation Serna founded, to try to persuade Serna to raise rates.

Serna resigned in April as president of Con Alma’s board after questions arose about a possible conflict of interest between his dual roles on the board and as insurance superintendent. He retired from his state post in May.

The attorney general’s office has been investigating a contract Serna signed with a Santa Fe bank.

Con Alma received more than $124,000 from Century Bank, which has had a contract since 2003 to hold insurance company deposits required of firms doing business in the state.

The contract was amended in 2005 to allow a higher fee than state regulations permit. The fee was decreased once it was discovered to be too high.

Serna has denied doing anything illegal or improper.

The state Public Regulation Commission in July fired Ruiz from his job without giving a reason.

Earlier this year, Ruiz’s name was mentioned in a lawsuit that alleged Serna had offered favorable treatment in insurance matters in exchange for contributions to Con Alma.

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