Lujan Grisham Tells Padilla To End Bid For Lt. Governor, Vote Delayed On Oil And Gas Ordinance

Nov 17, 2017

Lujan Grisham Tells Senate Leader To Leave Race- The Associated Press

New Mexico Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla should end his bid for lieutenant governor over claims he harassed women as a city of Albuquerque supervisor.

Padilla has long denied the harassment claims dating back to 2006 that he links to issues of a hostile workplace environment and not sexual harassment. But Lujan Grisham said in a statement to The Associated Press that Padilla should end his campaign as the decade-old allegations began to resurface on social media and amid sexual harassment cases involving other political leaders and celebrities.

"My position on sexual harassment is clear: it is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated by me or in my Administration. Michael Padilla's actions were wrong," Lujan Grisham said in a statement to The Associated Press. "There is no room for excuses and he should withdraw his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor."

New Mexico Posing Quarantine To Stop Pecan Weevil Bug- The Associated Press

New Mexico agriculture officials are issuing a quarantine in hopes of stopping the spread of an invasive bug threatening the state's pecan industry.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture says an emergency pecan weevil quarantine will take effect Monday and last for 180 days.

No pecan shipments from Chaves, Curry, Eddy and Lea counties will be permitted.

Meanwhile, the agency is also working with pest control companies to remove the weevil from residential and commercial trees.

In late 2016, and January of this year, the weevil was found in pecan orchards in multiple counties in southeast New Mexico.

Pecan producers worry the quarantine could prevent them from trading to the west where New Mexico's $180 million pecan industry is most lucrative.

Oral Arguments Scheduled In Texas-New Mexico Water Rights- The Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in a lengthy battle between New Mexico and Texas over management of one of North America's longest rivers.

Oral arguments in the Rio Grande case are scheduled Jan. 8.

All sides say the stakes are high given uncertainty about the future sustainability of water supplies throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Farmers, water policy experts, city officials and others have been working behind the scenes to build a framework for a possible settlement.

Texas took its case to the Supreme Court in 2013, asking that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater along the border so that more of the river could flow south to farmers and residents in El Paso.

New Mexico has argued in court documents that it's meeting delivery obligations to Texas.

New Mexico Sees Over-The-Year Job Growth In Private Sector- The Associated Press

New Mexico's unemployment rate edged lower in October to 6.1 percent, slightly less than the previous month and nearly a percentage point less than the same period last year.

The state jobless rate is still higher than the national rate, but labor officials say New Mexico over the past year has recorded gains in the private sector that have resulted in 13,900 jobs, or 2.2 percent growth.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector was up 4,000 jobs, or 4.2 percent, representing the most substantial numeric gain of all industries.

Over-the-year job losses in mining have ranged from 100 to 800 jobs in the last seven months.

Among the state's 33 counties, Luna had the highest unemployment rate — 10.3 percent — for October, followed by McKinley and Torrance counties.

Final Vote Delayed On Amended Oil-Gas OrdinanceAssociated Press

Sandoval County commissioners will have to wait to take a final vote on a proposed ordinance aimed at regulating oil and gas development across thousands of square miles of unincorporated lands in northwestern New Mexico.

The commission heard hours of public testimony Thursday before adopting two changes during deliberations that stretched into Friday. Because the proposal was amended, the commission will have to wait until its next meeting to take up the new version.

During a packed meeting, several tribal leaders testified they were not consulted while environmentalists, activists and concerned residents voiced concerns that increased drilling in the region could contaminate groundwater supplies.

Many asked the commission to delay a vote so more data could be reviewed and the issue studied further.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors also passed a resolution Thursday in opposition of the ordinance.

Energy companies and industry representatives argued that the commission had developed a fair and balanced ordinance that would fill a regulatory void and provide for economic opportunities.

Former New Mexico tax worker pleads guilty in extortion case- The Associated Press

A former agent with the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department has pleaded guilty to extortion charges.

Federal prosecutors announced Larry Mendoza's plea on Friday. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $250,000. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

He was accused earlier this year of abusing his position to extort $2,500 from a business owner in return for reducing the owner's tax liability.

Mendoza also admitted that he engaged in a similar pattern with other business owners and that his criminal conduct was responsible for tax revenue losses in excess of $40,000.

Mendoza worked for the tax department for a decade. He was placed on leave in May and eventually fired.

He told authorities he used the money for personal benefit.

Spring Runoff, Late Rains Boost Reservoirs In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Federal water managers say good spring runoff and heavy rains in the fall helped to boost reservoir levels in New Mexico this year.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced this week that the Rio Grande in 2017 marked its highest spring runoff since 2008. The Rio Chama, the largest tributary to the Rio Grande in New Mexico, had its sixth best spring runoff since 1956.

Officials say the good flows allowed for the first time in four years a full allocation of water to those who depend on the San Juan-Chama project.

Heron Reservoir stores water from the project. It currently holds nearly 150,000 acre-feet, significantly more than last year. One acre-foot (1,200 cubic meters) is enough to supply a typical U.S. family for a year.

In the south, Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs also marked higher levels.

Silver City Hired Violent Cop Who Later Killed ExAssociated Press

The family of a woman killed by a Silver City police captain during a violent domestic rampage is suing the town and its police department for failing to stop him from stalking.

The lawsuit, which moved to U.S. District Court in Albuquerque this week, alleges that the Silver City police hired Mark Contreras despite his history of violence. After Contreras was hired, court documents say the police department did little to stop his physical abuse toward his ex-girlfriend, Nikki Bascom, and eventually promoted him to captain.

Authorities say Contreras shot and killed the 31-year-old Bascom then turned the gun on himself in April 2016.

The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Cody Rogers, an attorney for Silver City, did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.

Ex-New Mexico State Senator Is Convicted In Corruption TrialAssociated 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.

Judge Rebukes Albuquerque Regarding Police Reform Monitor- The Associated Press

A judge presiding over federally mandated reforms of the Albuquerque police force is taking the city to task for trying to disqualify an independent monitor.

U.S. District Judge Robert Brack denied a motion Thursday in which the city questioned monitor James Ginger's objectivity.

The motion cited comments Ginger made in 2016 that were caught on a police body camera and a remark from his staff that he "has an ax to grind."

Brack says neither was evidence of bias.

The judge also chastised the decision to secretly record Ginger with a body camera as "unacceptable."

He ordered recordings and transcripts secretly obtained of the monitor and his team be turned over.

The department has been undergoing an overhaul since the Justice Department found a pattern of excessive force in 2014.

Judge Slams City Of Albuquerque Actions On Police MonitorAlbuquerque Journal

The federal judge overseeing reform efforts in the Albuquerque Police Department slammed city officials in denying a motion to hold a hearing on a court-appointed monitor.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the city of Albuquerque had filed a motion seeking a hearing to determine whether independent monitor James Ginger was biased against APD. U.S. District Judge Robert Brack said the allegations were “insufficient to disqualify” Ginger.

Brack said he was “tired of the toxicity” and also warned the city was “coming dangerously close to obstruction” of the reform process in the way it framed a meeting in March 2016 between Ginger and city officials.

That meeting was secretly recorded by a senior police commander using his lapel camera. Brack ordered the city to turn over any other secret recordings of meetings to the court.

The Journal reports Brack’s comments in his ruling were his most critical to date on the police reform process, which began after the U.S. Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive force in the department in 2014.

Ginger makes regular reports to Brack on efforts to implement reform in the police department and he’s been critical of what he sees as a lack of progress.

New Mexico Labs, Bases To Benefit From Spending BillAssociated Press

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation say a sweeping defense policy bill awaiting President Donald Trump's signature includes funding for federal laboratories and military bases around the state.

The defense authorization bill for 2018 sailed through the Senate on Thursday. The House approved the measure earlier this week.

It includes more than $14 billion for the U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration. That's an increase of nearly $1 billion over the last fiscal year.

The funds support nuclear weapons programs and environmental cleanup at Los Alamos and Sandia labs as well as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.

The bill also authorizes spending for projects at New Mexico bases, including $50 million at Cannon Air Force Base, $4.2 million for Holloman and more than $9 million for Kirtland Air Force Base.

Nuclear Oversight Included In Defense Spending BillAssociated Press

A measure aimed to bolstering oversight of the nation's nuclear weapons complex has been passed by Congress as part of a $700 billion defense spending plan.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico say their amendment to the massive military budget bill addresses the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The independent panel oversees two national laboratories in the state and the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

The measure requires board members to report to Congress each year about whether the White House's budget request for the board is enough to fund reviews deemed necessary to ensure safe operations at the U.S. Energy Department sites.

Supporters say the board's role is critical given a series of safety lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a planned uptick in nuclear weapons work.

New Mexico Man Indicted In Shooting RampageAssociated Press

A man accused of killing five people in a June shooting rampage in New Mexico has been indicted on first-degree murder and numerous other charges.

District Attorney Marco Serna announced the findings Thursday of a Rio Arriba County grand jury in the case of Damian Herrera.

In a crime spree that crisscrossed northern New Mexico, Herrera is accused of fatally shooting his stepfather, his brother and his mother in the small community of Madera and then killing strangers in Tres Piedras and Abiquiu.

The indictment lists only four counts of murder and includes charges of evidence tampering; unlawful taking of a vehicle; aggravated fleeing; resisting, evading or obstructing an officer; and assault on an officer.

Herrera was moved to an undisclosed location in August after twice attempting to escape from the county jail.

Two Dead After Pursuit Of Stolen Car In AlbuquerqueAssociated Press

Two suspects in a stolen vehicle have been killed after a pursuit by deputies in Albuquerque.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said at a news conference Friday morning that the incident began shortly before 4 a.m.

A sheriff's office helicopter located a pick-up truck that had been reported stolen.

According to Gonzales, the truck began driving erratically and was stopped near Coors and Glen Rio NW.

He says at that point the deputies felt threatened and at least one shot was fired.

Authorities pronounced two people in the truck dead. Two others were uninjured and taken into custody.

Gonzales did not say why the deputies felt threatened or identify the dead suspects.

This is the second fatal deputy-involved shooting in a week.