More Candidates Enter Race For Lt. Gov, Cause Of Pipeline Rupture Unknown

Dec 6, 2017

Garcia Holmes, Morales Enter Races For Lieutenant Governor – The Associated Press

Two more candidates have jumped into the race for New Mexico lieutenant governor.

State Sen. Howie Morales is running for the Democratic nomination in a crowded primary race. Michele Garcia Holmes will seek the Republican nomination, with no other current contenders.

A former teacher, Morales of Silver City has served in the state Senate since 2008 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014. Garcia Holmes is a former police officer and former chief of staff to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that other Democrats in the race are Eagles Nest resident Jeff Carr, Dona Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, former House Majority Leader Rick Miera, and David McTeigue, a juvenile probation officer from Rio Rancho.

Company: Cause Of Pipeline Rupture UnknownThe Associated Press

A Houston-based energy company says it's investigating what caused one of its natural gas pipelines to rupture, explode and catch fire in southeastern New Mexico's oil patch.

Spokesman Rick Rainey of Enterprise Products Partners L.P. says the incident early Wednesday morning in a sparsely populated rural area south of Carlsbad involved a line that transfers gas from wells to a treatment facility.

Eddy County Emergency Manager Jennifer Armendariz says there are no reported injuries but that one storage building burned before authorities shut down the pipeline to extinguish the fire.

Armendariz says authorities first had to identify what company's pipeline was involved.

The incident caused the closure of two nearby highways. U.S. 285 was reopened to traffic late Wednesday morning while State Route 31 remained closed.

University Leaders Seek Change In Lottery ScholarshipsThe Associated Press

Leaders of colleges and universities in New Mexico are requesting the state Legislature to separate lottery scholarships from tuition costs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers presented the request to a Legislative Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday on behalf of the Council of University Presidents.

Carruthers says the request aims "break the tradition of tuition going up in comparison to the lottery scholarship."

The state lottery has funded scholarships for qualifying students to attend public universities and colleges in the state. The scholarship amount has been based on individual tuition.

Carruthers says the current idea is to give the scholarships at a set amount across the board or to distribute the funding to universities for each to decide how to dispense.

Prosecutor Appeals Ruling For 3rd Trial For Convicted KillerThe Associated Press

An attorney is challenging a judge's decision to grant a third trial to a man convicted of killing three members of a New Mexico family with a pickax in 2011.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports District Attorney Marco Serna has filed a notice of intent to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Nicholas Ortiz was found guilty of killing three members of an El Rancho family in December 2016 after a second trial. Ortiz's first trial in June 2016 resulted in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict. Ortiz's attorney, Dan Marlowe, asked District Judge Francis J. Mathew to grant Ortiz a new trial.

Marlowe, who defended Ortiz in the previous trials, is asking to withdraw from the case because Ortiz can't pay him.

ACLU: New Mexico Deputies Kept Pulling Over Black ICE AgentThe Associated Press

A black female federal immigration officer in New Mexico says she was repeatedly pulled over by sheriff's deputies — twice by the same deputy — with no probable cause.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico announced Wednesday it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 38-year-old Sherese Crawford against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office stemming from three alleged racially profiling stops.

According to the lawsuit, Crawford was first stopped in April 2017 on suspicion of driving a stolen car. The ACLU says Crawford was driving a rental car provided by ICE.

The lawsuit says Deputy Patrick Rael then pulled her over later that month for tailgating and again the next month for driving "too slow."

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Felicia Maggard did not immediately return an email.

New Mexico Targets Chronically Failing SchoolsAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico education officials have identified four failing schools that are in line for what they call rigorous interventions that could span from restructuring to closure.

Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski named the schools during a news conference Tuesday in Albuquerque in which he also unveiled a multimillion-dollar program aimed at helping struggling schools.

The program includes access to funding as well as training and mentorship for teachers and principals.

State officials say Hawthorne Elementary and Whittier Elementary in Albuquerque have each earned six continuous "F'' grades since 2012. Los Padillas Elementary in Albuquerque and Dulce Elementary in northern New Mexico have been earning failing grades since 2013.

The standards schools must now meet are outlined by federal mandates that replaced the widely criticized No Child Left Behind education law.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the schools have until Jan. 9 to choose among four options to improve performance.

Diverse Team Of New Mexico Lawmakers Drafts Harassment RulesAssociated Press

Eight New Mexico state lawmakers have been assigned to rewrite policies that guard against sexual harassment in the Statehouse amid accounts by women of entrenched misconduct.

The working group that met this week includes a retired First Amendment-rights attorney and a millennial-generation organizer for social justice causes. Republicans and Democrats are equally represented, while women outnumber men 5-3.

Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen already has made it clear she wants independent investigations of future harassment complaints to safeguard against reprisals and build trust.

She'll be working alongside GOP Rep. Jim Dines, the driving force behind a 2018 ballot measure to create an independent state ethics commission.

Democrats in the commission include first-term legislator Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces and two committee chairwomen.

New Mexico Tribe Seeks Federal Disaster DeclarationAssociated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation is asking the federal government for help as a Native American community in the state is recovering from the effects of severe weather and flooding.

The delegation says a storm in early October damaged roads, bridges and sewer lines at Acoma Pueblo.

They also say debris and wreckage piled up after the storm created treacherous driving conditions along a 10-mile stretch, isolating part of the pueblo's lands.

In a letter sent Tuesday to President Donald Trump, the lawmakers said the conditions affected members throughout the rural community, including those looking to gather firewood to heat their homes and ranchers who wanted to ensure their cattle had feed.

The pueblo's request for a disaster declaration states that damages have been assessed at $2 million.

New Mexico National Monuments To Remain IntactAssociated Press

The boundaries of New Mexico's two national monuments that were under review will remain intact, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says modifications will be made to protect the long-standing culture of grazing and to ensure hunters and anglers don't lose access.

Zinke said Tuesday his decision to keep Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and the Rio Grande Del Norte national monuments the same size followed discussions with the governor, the state's congressional delegation, ranchers and conservationists.

In a conference call with reporters, Zinke said the administration was comfortable with the New Mexico monuments and wanted to ensure they could be actively managed in perpetuity.

Monument supporters argue that issues related to public access and concerns about border security in southern New Mexico were addressed in the original proclamations.

Action Western Feature 'Big Kill' To Be Filmed In New MexicoAssociated Press

The New Mexico Film Office has announced the action western feature "Big Kill" will be filmed in the state.

Film Office Director Nick Maniatis says production will take place in Santa Fe.

The production will employ about 40 New Mexico crew members, up to 40 New Mexico principal actors and some 50 New Mexico background talent.

"Big Kill" is set for an early summer 2018 theatrical release.

It's the story of a tenderfoot from Philadelphia, two misfit gamblers on the run and a deadly preacher all with a date with destiny in a boomtown gone bust called "Big Kill."

The movie stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Danny Trejo, Christoph Sanders, Clint Hummel, Elizabeth McLaughlin, Stephanie Beran, KC Clyde and veteran actor Michael Pare.

Former Sandia Labs Employee Pleads Guilty In Fraud CaseAssociated Press

A former Sandia National Laboratories worker accused of creating a phony company to defraud the New Mexico facility of more than $2 million has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors say 55-year-old Carla Sena of Santa Rosa will be sentenced at a later date.

A federal grand jury indicted Sena last month 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 accused Sena of preparing a bid for a company under someone else's name and leveraging other bidders' information to ensure herself the winning bid.

Doña Ana Undersheriff On Paid Leave Pending InvestigationAssociated Press

Doña Ana County Undersheriff Ken Roberts has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a personnel investigation.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Roberts, who became the second-in-command at the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office in August 2016, was placed on leave last month.

County officials have declined to disclose further details on the investigation into Roberts, other than saying he's on leave "pending the outcome of an investigation and a determination."

The sheriff's office has released copies of citizen complaints against Roberts, which accuse him of rudeness, dishonestly, cursing, using vulgar language, improper behavior, intimidation and failing to act.

The sheriff's office, however, has refused to release copies of internal and external complaints, claiming that such records are confidential and protected by employer-employee relationships.

Changes In Store For New Mexico's Busiest Judicial DistrictAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has amended an order that governs the handling of criminal cases in the state's busiest judicial district amid rising crime and concerns among prosecutors and public defenders.

The court made the announcement Tuesday, saying the changes were approved after it considered proposals from the Bernalillo County district attorney's office, the district court in Albuquerque, public defenders and law enforcement.

The changes include adjustments to deadlines for disclosing evidence and scheduling pretrial witness interviews.

The head of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Artie Pepin, says the changes allow for timely resolution of criminal cases in a fair and just manner.

The changes take effect Jan. 15.

The case management order was initially implemented in 2015 to address a backlog. The rules set deadlines for procedural steps leading to a trial.

2018 Plan For Mexican Wolves Calls For Fostering Of Pups - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Federal wildlife officials have a plan for fostering as many as a dozen captive Mexican gray wolf pups with packs in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico in 2018.

The goal of the proposal unveiled this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to boost genetic diversity among the endangered species over the next year.

Aside from fostering, managers want to remove a female wolf from a pack in Arizona to prevent it from mating with a sibling.

During a temporary stint in captivity, the wolf either would be artificially inseminated or allowed to mate with another captive wolf before being released back into the wild.

Environmentalists are calling for the release of more captive wolves.

The public has until Dec. 26 to comment on the proposal.

Navajo Code Talker George B. Willie Sr. Dies In ArizonaAssociated Press

A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in Arizona.

Navajo Nation officials say George B. Willie Sr. died Tuesday at age 92.

Tribal officials say Willie lived in the community of Leupp, Arizona.

He served in the Marine Corps with the Second Marine Division from 1943 to 1946.

According to his family, Willie served in the Battle of Okinawa, delivering and receiving coded messages using the Navajo language.

He and other Navajos followed in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code and received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.

Willie is survived by his wife Emma, 10 children and several grandchildren.

A celebration of life is scheduled Dec. 8 at the Presbyterian Church in Leupp.

Judge Orders Payday Loan Company To Give Back More Than $7MAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has ordered a payday loan company to pay more than $7 million to a group of nearly 10,000 New Mexico residents after ruling on a class action lawsuit.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Friday ruling found that Community Financial Loan Service Centers LLC had charged its customers millions of dollars in illegal loans from 2010 to 2014. The company operates as Speedy Loan with multiple locations in New Mexico.

Speedy Loan attorney Donald Kochersberger says the lawsuit came as a result of an error in the company's computer systems. He says they respect the court's ruling, but they are "greatly disheartened by it."

The court also found the company had collected illegal fees on 31,074 loans.