Lawmaker Questions NMSU's Hiring Decision, UNM Falls Short On Opportunity Mandate

May 31, 2018

Lawmaker Questions New Mexico State's Hiring DecisionThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

A state legislator is questioning the decision by New Mexico State University regents to hire two new top officials with large salaries to replace one person who is retiring.

Democratic state Sen. John Arthur Smith has been critical of the regents' decision not renew the contract for Garrey Carruthers, who was paid $385,000 a year to serve as both president and chancellor for the university in Las Cruces, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The regents split the job, hiring Dan Arvizu as chancellor and John Floros as president. Arvizu will make $500,000 annually, and Floros will make $450,000.

Smith, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said people in his southern New Mexico district are questioning how the president and chancellor roles will be divided.

"When you approach $1 million in payroll, new payroll . coming on the heels of really austere times for the state of New Mexico, it sort of surprises me," Smith said. "The regents seem to forget where we are financially."

While Carruthers' job was initially posted as one position, the regents had the authority to create a two-person leadership team and the timing was right, Debra Hicks said, the chairwoman of the board of regents.

"We can no longer continue to have a decline like we have for the last six years of 22 percent enrollment, the decrease in research funding in billions of dollars," Hicks said. "We just can't sustain that."

With competition high among universities, large salaries are required to attract the best people to the top jobs, Republican state Rep. Larry Larranaga said.

"If you want to get somebody good, you're going to have to pay that price, I assume," Larranaga said.

University Of New Mexico Falls Short On Opportunity MandateThe Associated Press

New Mexico's flagship university is falling short of meeting some federal requirements aimed at ensuring men and women have equal opportunities when it comes to playing sports, according to an independent review made public Thursday.

The review comes as UNM’s athletics department struggles to get its spending under control. A multimillion-dollar running deficit that has built up over a decade is forcing school officials to weigh drastic cuts, including the possible elimination of some sports teams.

University President Garnett Stokes had warned earlier this year that tough choices would have to be made if the school wanted to avoid jeopardizing the future integrity of the entire athletics program.

She and Eddie Nunez, director of athletics, addressed the budget and the Title IX requirements in an open letter posted on the university's website. They asked for patience as the university looks for ways to "honorably and accountably" manage its way through its current challenges. They also acknowledged lingering concerns about the athletics department not complying with federal law.

Other measures that ensure the university is meeting the federal mandates include evidence of a history of growth and continued expansion of opportunities for underrepresented groups.

According to the findings, the university will have to consider restructuring some sports and implementing a roster management plan based on national averages to maximize participation opportunities for women.

The recommendations call for leaving participation in football, basketball, baseball and softball relatively unchanged. Rosters for women's swimming and diving teams as well as the men's and women's track teams would shrink.

Navajo Presidential Race Draws Crowded Field Of CandidatesThe Associated Press

The race to become president on the country's largest American Indian reservation has drawn a crowded field of candidates.

Nineteen people met Wednesday's deadline to file for the office. They include tribal President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and others who have held or sought those posts.

The top two vote-getters in the August primary face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

Whoever wins will have to deal with declining revenue if a coal-fired power plant on the reservation shuts down as planned in 2019.

Candidates also regularly promise to improve the economy, create jobs, secure water and deliver basic services.

Most of the candidates are from the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation. Five are from New Mexico. None are from Utah.

Commissioners Call On Leader Of Energy Nonprofit To ResignThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Two members of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission are calling on the executive director of a clean-energy nonprofit to resign, claiming she violated federal law by also heading a political action committee.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy, who are both running for re-election, claim New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi is leading Responsible Leadership NM, which is supporting the incumbents' opponents in the Democratic primary next month.

Nanasi says she did not violate law. She says she has contributed personally to the PAC but is not a founder or director of it.

Nanasi says the commissioners' efforts for her to resign are an attempt to deflect attention from other issues. Nanasi has been a frequent critic of the commission.

New Mexico Closes Sites Adjacent To Santa Fe National ForestThe Associated Press

New Mexico is closing State Game Commission properties adjacent to the Santa Fe National Forest to coincide with the forest's full closure that takes effect Friday because of drought and extreme fire danger.

The Department of Game and Fish says the state's closures also take effect Friday and include campgrounds and fishing areas in Pecos Canyon, the Bluebird Wildlife Management Area, and portions of Fenton Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The department says the closure order prohibits all public access and recreational activities on the affected properties, including campgrounds, parking areas, trails and trailheads.

The Santa Fe forest's closure is the first forest closure for New Mexico this season, though portions of national forests in neighboring Arizona already have closed.

Portions of several National Park Service sites will be closed beginning Friday.

Town Withdraws From Tribute To Spanish Conquistador – Associated Press

A northern New Mexico town will no longer organize an annual commemoration of the arrival of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate, leaving the consumed pageant and carnival to an independent group.

Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez confirmed Wednesday a unanimous city council vote to repeal the local government's obligation to organize the festival.

The celebration includes a costumed procession of an armored Onate on horseback with a coterie of soldiers, royalty, Christian friars and an Indian scout.

Onate is revered as a Hispanic founding father and reviled for brutality against Native Americans.

Sanchez says the decision opens the way for the city to involve more people including local Native Americans in new cultural celebrations.

Local leaders including city councilor John Ramon Vigil hope a nonprofit group can continue the Onate tribute.

Feds Plan Public Land Closures In New Mexico Amid Fire Fears – Associated Press

Federal authorities are restricting access to multiple wilderness areas in northern New Mexico amid potential wildfire concerns.

The U.S. Forest Service says Santa Fe National Forest will close at 8 a.m. Friday. It's the first national forest closure for New Mexico this season, while portions of national forests in neighboring Arizona already have closed.

Portions of three national park sites in New Mexico also will be off limits starting midnight Friday. The National Park Service announced backcountry within Bandelier National Monument, Pecos National Historical Park and Valles Caldera National Preserve will be closed.

The parks' visitor centers will remain open. People can still hike parts of Bandelier and Pecos.

But Valles Caldera is suspending access to all fishing, horseback riding, biking and hiking, with the exception of ranger-led tours and hikes.

Albuquerque Plans Memorial Where Women's Remains Were Found – Associated Press

Albuquerque officials say construction is set to begin soon on a memorial site where the remains of 11 women were found buried nearly a decade ago.

Mayor Tim Keller plans to attend the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Women's Memorial Park on Saturday at 10 a.m. on the city's West Mesa.

The city plans to construct the memorial where the victims, one of whom had been pregnant, were found buried in 2009.

In February of that year, a woman walking her dog discovered a large bone protruding from the dirt, leading police to excavate the area.

Victims' relatives have long awaited the construction of a memorial dedicated to the women.

No one has been arrested in their deaths.

Fee Increases Planned For Bandelier National Monument – Associated Press

Bandelier National Monument is raising its vehicle and entrance fees.

The National Park Service says starting June 1 that entrance fees will be $15 per person. The new vehicle fee is $25, while the Bandelier annual park pass will be $45.

Each fee change represents a $5 increase in cost.

Bandelier is among more than 100 National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee. Three hundred have no entrance fee.

Bandelier National Monument features canyon trails, wooded hikes and ancient dwellings that are embedded into rocky cliffs.

The fee changes at Bandelier is set to go into effect the same day that access to backcountry at the monument and two other National Park Service sites in the state will be suspended amid severe drought and heightened concerns over potential fire dangers.

Transgender Migrant Dies While In ICE Detention in New Mexico – Associated Press

The death of a transgender woman while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Mexico has prompted advocates to demand that LGBTQ migrant detainees be freed until their cases are heard.

33-year-old Roxana Hernandez from Honduras died last Friday at an Albuquerque hospital after being admitted with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and HIV-related complications. Hospital staff said the preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Hernandez was part of a highly publicized caravan of Central American asylum seekers who traveled through Mexico to the U.S. border at San Diego last month. The effort drew the attention of President Trump, who tweeted that they shouldn't be allowed to enter the U.S.

Advocates and nineteen members of Congress have expressed concerns about how LGBTQ migrants are cared for and housed, calling for ICE to release migrants who are at high risk for abuse.

ICE says all detainees get medical, dental and mental health screening within 12 hours of arriving at a detention facility, and access to 24-hour emergency care.

Hernandez was the sixth detainee to die in ICE custody since October 2017.

Rancher's Onions Plundered Following Social Media Post – Associated Press, Lass Cruces Sun-News

Onions intended as supplemental feed for cattle were plundered after a person discovered the piles and posted about it on social media, a New Mexico rancher said.

A person stumbled across the more than 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of onions in a desert area west of Las Cruces and had assumed the vegetables were dumped as waste, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

The person posted to Facebook encouraging other area residents to go grab some.

The onions were "culled" onions that didn't meet grade requirements of a nearby onion packing plant, Barker Produce, and thus unable to be sold.

Rancher James Montoya requested a load of culled onions from Barker for his cattle, said Barker Produce Vice President Brandon Barker.

Montoya said the onions were free; he simply had to pay the shipping costs.

Montoya said the onions were placed on land that he leases from the state. He said some people were filling the beds of pickup trucks with onions to haul away.

"We didn't put them out here for the public to have access to," he said. "But the public came. They were leaving their trash, beer bottles."

Asked whether onions dumped in the desert would be safe for people to eat, New Mexico Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Kristie Garcia said the department would have to know more about how the circumstances surrounding the onions before being able to say.

"(W)e cannot make a determination regarding their marketability or safety for human consumption," Garcia said.

Montoya said he moved the remaining onions Monday to an undisclosed location.