Newspapers Want Corizon Settlement Papers, Griego Waives Arraignment

Jul 20, 2016

New Mexico Newspapers Want Settlement Details From CorizonAssociated Press   

Two newspapers and an advocacy group have asked a New Mexico district court to publicly release some settlement documents between Corizon Health and inmates in the state's prison system.

Corizon is the nation's largest for-profit provider of inmate medical services.

Under its contract with the Department of Corrections, Corizon provides medical services at 10 New Mexico prisons.

Last month, Corizon settled claims filed by 59 inmates at two New Mexico facilities for nearly $4.6 million.

There are confidentiality clauses in the settlements, but most of the payouts appear to be related to a former Corizon doctor accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing dozens of inmates at the prisons.

The Santa Fe New Mexican, the Albuquerque Journal and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government want the settlement documents made public.

Ex-Senator Waives Arraignment In Corruption CaseThe Associated Press

Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego is waiving his right to a court arraignment on newly confirmed charges of fraud, bribery and perjury as the criminal corruption case moves toward trial.

The decision means Griego will no longer appear this week at a state district court in Albuquerque.

State prosecutors allege Griego used his position as a senator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe by pushing approval of the transaction through the Legislature without proper disclosure.

State District Court Judge Brett Loveless says evidence is sufficient to move forward with nine counts against Griego. Griego previously pleaded not guilty.

Griego resigned from the Senate last year amid a Senate ethics investigation.

Federal Immigration Court Backlog Tops 500,000 Pending Cases -  The Associated Press

The Associated Press has learned that the immigration court backlog has eclipsed half a million pending cases.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review says there are now 500,051 pending immigration cases in the agency's 59 courts.

The backlog has been steadily rising in recent years as the number of unaccompanied children and people traveling as families have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally in recent years. Since 2011 more than 200,000 cases have been added to the court's docket and the backlog likely will keep rising.

More than 51,000 people traveling as families and more than 43,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, have been caught crossing the border illegally since the start of the budget year in October.

New Mexico Gas Co. Plans Natural Gas Pipeline To MexicoThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gas Co. says it'll seek a federal permit to begin building a natural gas pipeline from southern New Mexico to Mexico.

Company spokesman Teala Kail says the $5 million project would extend the company's existing pipeline in Santa Teresa about five miles to the U.S.-Mexico border and enlarge the pipeline.

The Albuquerque Journal (http://goo.gl/CTuQez ) reports that additional facilities would need to be built on the Mexican side of the border before exports of gas could begin.

A federal permit is required for pipelines that reach the border between the United States and Canada or Mexico, and Kail says the company expects the permit process will take a few months.

New Mexico Gas is the state's largest natural gas utility, serving more than 515,000 customers.

Whistleblowers Take Concerns To New Mexico Supreme CourtAssociated Press   

The New Mexico Supreme Court is being asked to intervene in competing efforts to reclaim money from investment firms that paid their way into managing state funds during the administration of former Governor Bill Richardson.

The court was asked yesterday to disqualify the Connecticut-based law firm that has helped New Mexico reach settlement agreements with the financial service industry.

The request was made by a couple behind a whistleblower lawsuit designed to claw back money from investment firms on behalf of taxpayers.

Frank and Suzanne Foy say that new witness testimony shows the law firm failed to disclose Wall Street clients that create a conflict of interest when representing the state. Similar conflict allegations have been raised during years of court proceedings without disqualification.

Albuquerque Mayor To Announce Revamps For Route 66 MotelsThe Associated Press

The office of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says he will announce an agreement to redevelop two once-popular motels along Historic Route 66.

The mayor plans to reveal details of the renovation projects Tuesday morning for the now-shuttered De Anza Motor Lodge and El Vado Motel.

The De Anza Motor Lodge was a business owned by Zuni trader and Indian art collector Charles G. Wallace, who commissioned American Indian murals for the roadside stop that was once a popular spot among writers and artists.

The Elvado Motel first opened in 1937. It is near Old Town and the Rio Grande.

The National Park Service says there have been few changes to the pre-World War II motel's facade over the years.

Governor Names New Mexico Finance Department's SecretaryAssociated Press   

The acting secretary of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration has been named the new head of the department.

The appointment of Dorothy "Duffy" Rodriguez was announced earlier this week by Governor Susana Martinez's office.

Rodriguez had been the department's acting secretary since the end of May when the previous secretary Tom Clifford retired.  

The department is the state's central budget agency. Its secretary is a member of the State Investment Council and presides over Board of Finance meetings.

The 63-year-old Rodriguez began her career in 1975 as an aide to U.S. Senator Joseph Montoya.

She has worked in the administrations of every New Mexico governor since the late 1970s.

Feds Remove The Lesser Prairie Chicken From Protection ListAssociated Press  

The U.S. government has announced it’s removing the lesser prairie chicken from a federal protection list under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday the move follows recent court rulings in Texas that stripped the lesser prairie chicken of federal protection. However, federal officials say the removal didn't mean authorities had concluded the lesser prairie chicken didn't warrant federal protection for biological reasons.

The rulings found that Fish and Wildlife failed to make a proper evaluation of a multi-state conservation plan when it listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.

Oil and gas groups had strongly opposed the threatened listing, saying it would cost companies millions.

The lesser prairie chicken lives in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

Man Wanted In Texas For Sex Offenses Arrested In New MexicoAssociated Press  

A man wanted in Texas for alleged sex offenses involving children has been arrested in New Mexico after being on the run for more than three years.

U.S. Marshals Service officials say 39-year-old Tommy Dale Sells Jr. was taken into custody yesterday afternoon in Albuquerque.

They say Sells was wanted by the Potter County Sheriff's Office in Amarillo, Texas on suspicion of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child under age 14 and two counts of indecent contact with a child.

The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a $10,000 reward for Sells.

Authorities say Sells had been a fugitive since May 2013.

Albuquerque Mayor To Announce Revamps For Route 66 MotelsAssociated Press  

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says he will redevelop two once-popular motels along Historic Route 66.

The mayor revealed details of the renovation projects yesterday for the now-shuttered De Anza Motor Lodge and El Vado Motel.

The De Anza Motor Lodge was a business owned by Zuni trader and Indian art collector Charles G. Wallace who commissioned American Indian murals for the roadside stop that was once a popular spot for writers and artists.

The El Vado Motel first opened in 1937. It’s near Old Town and the Rio Grande.

The National Park Service says there’s been a few changes to the pre-World War Two motel facade over the years.

New Mexico Spaceport Authority Director ResignsAssociated Press  

The head of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority is resigning, saying she still believes in the commercial space industry and that Spaceport America has a role to play.

Christine Anderson announced her resignation in a memo yesterday to the authority's board and Governor. Susana Martinez. She said it was a difficult decision but she wants to pursue other adventures.

Anderson took over as executive director five years ago as the tax-payer financed spaceport was just getting off the ground.

She has lauded successes in building a multimillion-dollar launch site and bringing infrastructure to a remote stretch of desert, but delays by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic left the spaceport scrambling for revenue in recent years and some lawmakers have criticized the venture.

Anderson said in her letter that Spaceport America has signed new tenants and has momentum.