Navajo Nation To Implement Alert System, NM Police Chief Proposes More Transparency

Dec 13, 2017

Navajo Nation To Implement An Emergency Alert SystemThe Associated Press

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says he has signed a contract to purchase software to implement an emergency system for Amber Alerts, wildland fires, hazardous waste spills, weather notification and road closures.

The tribe had previously negotiated the use of New Mexico's, Arizona's and Utah's Amber Alert system.

However, the extra steps to run through all three states reportedly delayed notifications.

Once installed, the emergency alert system will officially be under the Navajo Division of Public Safety and managed by the Navajo Department of Emergency Management.

The software is expected to be deployed for use by the end of this month.

The tribe will have the capability to push alerts over radio, television and text messaging to all 11 counties that fall within the Navajo Nation's vast reservation borders.

Police Chief Proposes More Transparency In Misconduct CasesThe Associated Press

The New Mexico State Police chief is recommending the board that handles officer conduct cases to take steps to become more transparent.

Chief Pete Kassetas introduced a proposal on Tuesday for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board to post more information online concerning its decisions in misconduct investigations.

The board has the power to uphold or revoke certifications of police officers across the state.

Kassetas is proposing the officer's name, employer, disciplinary decisions and the status of charges to be posted in online database the public can access.

Kassetas says that by making this information public, it would be less likely for troubled officers to be hired at other law enforcement agencies in the state.

Board members say the proposal could be voted upon at the next public meeting.

University Of New Mexico Suspends Most Greek Life ActivitiesThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is suspending most social events by its fraternity and sorority chapters for the next two months.

The suspension comes after three fraternities were placed on "emergency suspension" while they are being investigated for allegations of hazing and alcohol violations.

According to a Dec. 8 memo from Vice President of Student Affairs Eliseo Torres, the "social restriction" will continue through Feb. 19.

During this time Greek organizations will not be allowed to hold events on or off campus that are open to anyone besides their own members. They will still be allowed to work on community service projects, conduct operational business, recruit and participate in Greek Week in February provided that the events do not involve alcohol.

University Of New Mexico Considers Using Santa Fe Art SchoolThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is considering taking over the soon-to-be closed Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

KOB-TV reports University of New Mexico Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said during the Board of Regents' Tuesday meeting that the university is looking at ways it could use the art college that are both financially viable and aligned with the university's mission.

Abdallah says the university is not interested in turning the Santa Fe school into a branch campus.

Instead, Abdallah says the university is open to offering strong academic degrees at the Santa Fe school.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design officials decided to close the institution in April after having financial problems and low student enrollment.

The art college will be closed in spring 2018.

New Mexico Oil And Gas Companies Sign On To Reduce EmissionsThe Associated Press

Some of the biggest names in energy production in New Mexico have signed on to a national effort within the oil and gas industry to curb methane emissions as pressure mounts for states to enact more pollution laws.

The move comes as the U.S. Interior Department announced it would delay an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from production on federal lands.

Industry officials in New Mexico say BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy and others see the effort to reduce emissions as a priority and that work already underway has led to reductions in methane levels, such as using new technology to monitor for leaks.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, suggested this week that requiring regular inspections through new regulations would help.

Navajo Nation Sues Wells Fargo For Alleged Predatory TacticsAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation is suing Wells Fargo for allegedly engaging in predatory and unlawful banking practices that targeted and harmed tribal members.

In a statement Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says the tribe's lawyer has been directed to seek restitution, damages and civil penalties based on Wells Fargo's alleged violations of federal, state and tribal law.

The tribe alleges employees at Wells Fargo branches on the vast reservation "routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers' consent."

They also allege that Navajo elders "were purposely confused and deceived into purchasing products to help employees meet banking quotas."

The suit was filed in a federal court in New Mexico.

The Navajo Nation covers parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.

Classes To Resume After Shooting Rocks New Mexico SchoolAssociated Press

Classes will resume next week as a New Mexico community works to recover in the wake of a school shooting that left two classmates and the gunman dead.

District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter announced the schedule for Aztec High School on Tuesday.

Students and families can visit the school and reconnect with teachers on Thursday and Friday. On Monday, they'll start the day with an assembly before heading to class.

Carpenter says he wants to respect and honor the two victims of last Thursday's shooting by providing time for students and staff to mourn. He also said students need a sense of normalcy and returning to class will help with that.

Officials say the school has received a waiver for state-required end-of-course exams as the semester is close to wrapping up.

Officer Honored For Adopting Baby From Opioid Addicted Mom - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A police officer who persuaded a pregnant woman he found using heroin to let him adopt her unborn child has been honored by the city of Albuquerque.

Officer Ryan Holets and his wife were praised Monday for adopting a baby girl they named Hope after the addicted mom agreed to let the couple raise her baby.

Police say Holets found the homeless woman and a man using heroin near a convenience store in September. But instead of charging the couple with drug possession, he asked to adopt her child.

Holets and his wife had four other children, including a 10-month-old infant.

Holets says the baby is recovering after being born with an opioid addiction.

Albuquerque Police Sgt. Jim Edison says "he couldn't be more proud" of Holets.

Federal Officials Probe National Lab After Worker Incident Associated Press

Federal officials are investigating the Los Alamos National Laboratory after an employee was involved in an incident described as a "near-miss to a fatality."

A letter sent to the outgoing lab director by the Department of Energy's Office of Enforcement says a worker entered a lab room despite a low-oxygen alarm sounding. The September incident was characterized in the letter as potentially deadly and a violation of building requirements and emergency response protocol.

Officials say the investigation will include a visit to the lab, interviews with employees and a review of lab documents.

A lab spokesman says they are cooperating with the federal probe.

An official with the National Nuclear Security Administration says the agency is committed to ensuring employees are safe.

Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging New Bond RulesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Supreme Court over changes to the bond system, finding the case was without merit.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the ruling issued Monday came after the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico, some state lawmakers and a woman who spent time in the Albuquerque jail filed the suit in July to challenge the new bond rules.

The state Supreme Court issued the rules after voters last year supported a constitutional amendment to allow people who do not pose a risk to be released from custody even if they cannot afford bail. It also allowed people to be held in jail without bail until their trial if they are deemed dangerous.

The bond association claimed the new rules harmed its profession.

US Congresswoman's Office Faces Discrimination ClaimsAssociated Press

A recent New Mexico college graduate says she was fired from an internship in U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham's office because she is transgender.

Riley Del Rey tells the Santa Fe New Mexican she's coming forward nearly three years after the internship because of the wave of news about harassment and discrimination. She says missing from the debate are the views of transgender people.

Lujan Grisham said through a spokesman that neither she nor her office would discriminate against anyone.

Lujan Grisham's office referred questions to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the nonprofit organization where Del Rey worked briefly.

The institute denied the discrimination claims. It declined to elaborate on the allegations but confirmed she was an intern in 2015 and did not finish the program.

Lujan Grisham is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in New Mexico.

FBI Reviewing Referrals Related To Fetal Tissue ResearchAssociated Press

Federal authorities in New Mexico are reviewing information related to a long-running controversy over the use of aborted fetus tissue in medical research.

U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce announced Monday that the FBI is considering two criminal referrals sent to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office by a Republican-run House panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood and the world of fetal tissue research.

The panel examined tissue procurement firms as well as research entities like the University of New Mexico. Its final report issued earlier this year cited 15 instances nationwide in which the committee has provided information to U.S. and state authorities for possible violations of federal and state laws.

Federal authorities confirmed in a letter to Pearce that practices at the university and the Southwestern Women's Options clinic in Albuquerque are being reviewed.