Ex- New Mexico State Senator Is Convicted In Corruption Trial, County Weighs Rules For Oil And Gas

Nov 16, 2017

Ex-New Mexico State Senator Is Convicted In Corruption TrialThe Associated Press

A former New Mexico state senator has been found guilty on five counts in a corruption trial over accusations he used his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state-owned building.

Jurors reached the verdict Thursday after deliberating eight charges against Phil Griego that included fraud, bribery and perjury.

Prosecutors accused Griego of using his elected position and acumen as a real estate broker to guide the building's sale in downtown Santa Fe through approvals by a state agency, the Legislature and a public buildings commission without properly disclosing his financial interest.

Griego says he did nothing wrong in earning a $50,000 commission in 2014 from buyers of the property.

The 69-year-old Democrat resigned from the Legislature in 2015 at the close of an ethics investigation.

New Mexico County Weighs Rules For Oil And Gas DrillingThe Associated Press

Elected leaders in one New Mexico county are considering an ordinance that would guide energy development across a large swath of land that borders the state's largest metropolitan area and numerous Native American communities.

Sandoval County's proposed regulations have generated much debate, with activists raising concerns about the potential environmental effects of increased drilling.

Meanwhile, supporters are highlighting the industry's multibillion-dollar role in the state's economy and the current void of regulations in the sprawling county.

The County Commission is taking up the matter Thursday evening.

The ordinance would apply to the county's unincorporated lands and would not affect state or federal regulations already in place.

While energy companies have operated for decades in areas along the edge of the San Juan Basin, there has been little interest in Sandoval County's southern, more populated reaches.

FCC Approves Changes To Phone Subsidies On Tribal LandsThe Associated Press

Federal regulators have approved major changes to a program that provides discounted phone service to low-income residents on tribal land.

About 12.5 million people across the country use Lifeline, a program created 30 years ago to improve access to phone service.

The program gives subscribers a $9.25 monthly discount on phone service. About 500,000 subscribers on tribal lands get an extra $25 monthly discount.

The Federal Communications Commission approved three changes Thursday that apply to tribal lands. They drop the deeper discount for phone providers that piggyback off existing infrastructure, establish new mapping of tribal lands and require independent verification of tribal residency.

The FCC says the changes are aimed at reducing waste, fraud and abuse.

Consumer advocates say excluding some providers will harm Indian Country.

Ex-Sandia Labs Employee Indicted On Fraud, Money LaunderingAssociated Press

Authorities say a former Sandia National Laboratories worker used her position and created a phony company to defraud the facility of more than $2 million.

A federal grand jury indicted 55-year-old Carla Sena of Albuquerque on Wednesday on 11 counts including wire fraud, major fraud against the U.S. and money laundering.

Most of the lab's work involves research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons.

A former procurement officer, Sena was tasked in 2010 with overseeing the bidding for a $2.3 million contract for moving services.

The indictment said Sena prepared a bid for a company under someone else's name and leveraged other bidders' information to ensure herself the winning bid.

Sena is also accused of diverting at least $640,000 between December 2011 and April 2015 to her father's businesses.

It was not immediately known if Sena had an attorney.

Luna Community College Placed On Notice By Education BoardAssociated Press

Luna Community College has been ordered by the Higher Learning Commission to show that it deserves to keep its accreditation.

School administrators received a letter from the commission last week, saying they have until Feb. 1 to show the college is meeting accreditation standards.

Earlier this year, a peer review team found the college was out of compliance with several core components and cited problems with financial oversight and administrative and governance structures.

Interim Luna Community College President Ricky Serna tells the Las Vegas Optic he feels the programs and procedures put in place since last spring have brought the college closer to full compliance.

Serna said many of the findings have more to do with administration documentation and training than with how the college functions day-to-day in each classroom.

Promoter Eyes 21,000-Seat Amphitheater In Las Cruces KVIA-TV, Associated Press

A southern New Mexico promoter is eying a 21,000-seat amphitheater in Las Cruces while the city of El Paso's downtown arena is caught in a legal battle.

Barbara "Mother" Hubbard told the KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, this week she wants to see a new stadium near the New Mexico State University's golf course.

The amphitheater would be built in two phases at the cost of around $50 million.

Hubbard recently made a presentation to the New Mexico State University's Board of Regents. The group has earmarked 55 acres for the project if the funding is secured.

Hubbard says the amphitheater could be used for everything from concerts, to rodeos to monster truck shows.

Powell Ends Bid For New Mexico State Land OfficeAssociated Press

Democrat Ray Powell is ending his bid for New Mexico land commissioner after finding out he has a rare autoimmune condition that affects the communication between nerves and muscles.

Powell made the announcement Wednesday on social media, saying there's a good probability he can live an active life with treatment but that if he were elected, he wouldn't be able to sustain the intense effort required by the office.

Powell has endorsed Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, a state lawmaker from Los Alamos.

Democratic Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup and Garrett VeneKlasen with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation are also running.

Powell served as land commissioner from 1993-2002 and again from 2011-2014. He narrowly lost the 2014 general election to Republican Aubrey Dunn.

The land commissioner oversees management of millions of mineral and surface acres.

Parties Pledge New Thinking To Solve Interstate Water FightAssociated Press

Farmers in southern New Mexico, water policy experts, lawyers and others are all working behind the scenes to craft possible solutions that could help to end a lengthy battle with Texas over management of the Rio Grande.

The case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and all sides say the stakes are high given uncertainty about the future sustainability of water supplies throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office, Las Cruces city officials and agricultural interests provided state lawmakers with an update Tuesday.

The court could schedule arguments early next year, but New Mexico is still open to settlement talks. Separately, the farmers and municipalities that would be affected by a ruling have been meeting regularly to build a framework for a possible settlement.

New Mexico Governor Seeking Auditor ApplicantsAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is looking for applicants to serve the remainder of State Auditor Tim Keller's term now that he has been elected mayor of New Mexico's largest city.

Keller, a Democrat, plans to resign from the state post Nov. 30 at midnight, just before he starts his new job as the mayor of Albuquerque on Dec. 1.

The deadline for applications to be submitted to the governor's office will be Dec. 1.

Martinez's office says the two-term Republican governor is looking for someone who adheres to high ethical standards and is committed to rooting out waste, fraud and abuse.

Keller's term as auditor runs through 2018.

Las Cruces Lawmaker To Run For New Mexico State AuditorAssociated Press

A state lawmaker is making a run for the job of New Mexico state auditor.

State Rep. Bill McCamley announced Wednesday that he will run next year for the position being vacated by newly elected Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller.

McCamley says he wants to continue Keller's initiatives and grow the state's economy.

The Democrat, who represents Las Cruces and Mesilla, has served in the Legislature since 2013.

Keller officially takes the reins as mayor Dec. 1.

Gov. Susana Martinez must appoint someone to fill the remainder of Keller's term.

Monitor Sees Reform Slowing In Albuquerque Police DepartmentAlbuquerque Journal

The latest report by the independent monitor overseeing reform efforts in the Albuquerque Police Department finds progress is slowing.

The Albuquerque Journal reports James Ginger also noted what he called deliberate indifference by APD to his input on reform efforts. APD is under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, which found in 2014 a pattern of excessive force in the department.

Ginger will discuss the report Thursday before U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, who is overseeing the reform process.

Ginger is particularly critical of APD’s use-of-force training. He notes in the report that the monitoring team has alerted APD officials to “significant deficiencies” in that training but there has not been substantial change.

City officials contend there has not been enough feedback from Ginger and they claim the monitor is biased. They are seeking a hearing on that issue.

APD Chief Gorden Eden is retiring at the end of this month. Mayor-elect Tim Keller will select the next chief. He takes office Dec. 1.

Defense Says Fraud Accusation Are NonsenseAssociated Press

A defense attorney is describing as nonsense allegations that former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego kept secret his financial interest in the sale of a state-owned building.

A jury listened Wednesday to closing arguments in the trial of Griego on corruption charges in connection with the sale of a state owned building.

State prosecutors allege Griego used his elected position to guide a building's sale through approvals by a state agency without properly disclosing his personal financial involvement. Griego acted as a real estate agent for the buyer of the property in downtown Santa Fe, eventually earning a $50,000 commission.

Defense attorney Thomas Clark told jurors that testimony from a Cabinet secretary shows Griego revealed his role as the buyer's agent in at a March 2014 meeting. Clark says that three other officials at the meeting lied in saying they did not recall or know about financial disclosures by Griego.