NM Public Education Secretary Stepping Down, NM DA Faces Charges Over DWI Stop

Jun 8, 2017

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Skandera To Step DownThe Associated Press

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is stepping down after seven years on the job.

Public Education Department spokeswoman Lida Alikhani confirmed Thursday that Skandera will resign on June 20. It was not immediately clear if Skandera was resigning to take another job or why she was resigning with more than a year left on her tenure.

Skandera often clashed with Democrats and teachers unions over various reforms pushed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Senate Democrats for years held up for appointment in committee although she ran the department as a designate.

Under Skandera, the Public Education Department introduced a new teacher evaluation system and standardized tests with tougher requirements.

American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly says Skandera's resignation is "welcome news."

New Mexico DA Faces Charges Over DWI Traffic StopThe Associated Press

A southwestern New Mexico district attorney who was facing calls to resign following a suspected DWI traffic stop is being accused by the state's top prosecutor of misusing her position as a public official.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office on Thursday filed a criminal complaint against Francesca Martinez-Estevez, whose district includes Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.

She's facing five misdemeanor counts that include reckless driving and the use of the powers and resources of public office to obtain personal benefits.

The charges stem from a June 2016 traffic stop near Silver City and subsequent fallout.

Martinez-Estevez's state-issued Dodge Charger was spotted swerving and speeding. Lapel video captured one local officer describing Martinez-Estevez as "loaded," but police did not give her a field sobriety test or a citation.

Her attorney has previously characterized the investigation as political grandstanding.

Ex-Northern New Mexico School Chief Heading To CourtLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A former northern New Mexico school superintendent facing a slew of fraud and forgery charges is headed to court.

The Las Vegas Optic reports former Mora schools superintendent Charles Trujillo is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a preliminary hearing.

Authorities say Trujillo used fake credentials to obtain state educator licenses and high-paying administrative positions with the Mora and Pecos school districts.

Trujillo resigned following an October investigation by the Las Vegas Optic that he faked his credentials.

If convicted of all the charges, Trujillo could be sentenced to more than 117 years in prison.

Trujillo's lawyer, Sam Bregman, says his client looks forward to proving his innocence.

Nakamura Sworn In As New Mexico Supreme Court Chief JusticeAssociated Press

Justice Judith Nakamura is the new chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

She was sworn in Wednesday during a ceremony in Albuquerque after being elected by her colleagues to lead the court. She succeeds Justice Charles Daniels, who had served as chief justice since 2016.

In her new role, Nakamura will preside over Supreme Court hearings and conferences. She also will serve as the administrative authority over personnel, budgetary matters and general operations of all state courts.

The chief justice also acts as an advocate for the Judiciary on legislation, funding for the courts and other issues.

Nakamura served for years on the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court and in the Second Judicial District before joining the state's highest court in December 2015.

Nakamura also is an avid hot air balloon pilot.

Review: Most Candidates, PACs Comply With New Mexico LawAssociated Press

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says the majority of the candidates and political committees involved in the last election cycle complied with the state's campaign finance reporting laws.

Toulouse Oliver on Wednesday released the findings of a random review of 106 candidates and committees.

She says violations ranged from exceeding contribution limits to misusing funds. All but one worked with her office to come into voluntary compliance with the reporting act.

In the outstanding case, the secretary of state's office says the New Mexico Habitat Conservation Initiative should have registered as a political committee rather than a corporation.

The report lists more than $52,000 in political contributions by the organization.

The organization said Wednesday it never received a letter from the secretary of state's office and will provide additional information to resolve the matter.

County Officials Say State 'Blackmailed' Them For Well StudyCurrent-Argus, Associated Press

Eddy County officials say they were "blackmailed" by the state of New Mexico into approving a $125,000 study of a brine well to prevent it from collapsing.

The Current-Argus reports county commissioners said Tuesday they had no other choice but to contribute the funds to get the Carlsbad Brine Well problem solved, despite their insistence that the state is to blame for the danger posed by the brine well.

The state collected profits from the well, which it licensed and ultimately decided to close in 2008 when the ground was found unstable.

County Manager Rick Rudometkin says the state wanted "some skin in the game." He says he thinks the county will be sued whether or not the well collapses.

Judge Delays Trial For Man Suspected In Officer's DeathGallup Independent, Associated Press

A federal judge has delayed the trial of a man accused of killing a Navajo Nation police officer.

The Gallup Independent reports the judge agreed to push back Kirby Cleveland's trial after lawyers from both sides said they need more time to prepare for such a complex case. According to court records, Cleveland's trial was originally scheduled for this week.

The parties have until July 31 to submit a proposed scheduling order to the court with proposed deadlines.

Cleveland is suspected of killing Police Officer Houston Largo while he was responding to a domestic violence call in the Casamero Lake area in March. According to a criminal complaint, Cleveland told his spouse that he had shot a police officer. Cleveland has pleaded not guilty to several charges.

Missing Hiker Found Dead In Taos County After Apparent Fall – Associated Press

Taos County authorities say a missing hiker has been found dead, apparently the victim of a fall down an embankment.

Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe says the death of Linda Sanford is under investigation and that the state Office of Medical Investigations will determine the cause of death.

Hogrefe says sheriff's deputies, members of Taos Search and Rescue and Taos Ski Valley personnel recovered Sanford's body Tuesday evening from a location about two miles up the El Salto trail.

A search was launched late Monday after Sanford's family reported she was overdue from a hike in the El Salto area.

Sanford was described as a recreational hiker who regularly hikes the area, and her car was found at the trailhead.

Berry Heading To Washington For Meetings On InfrastructureAssociated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is among mayors and governors President Donald Trump is summoning to Washington to talk about his infrastructure policies.

Berry will attend an "infrastructure summit" at the White House on Thursday that is part of a weeklong series of related events and announcements by Trump.

Trump is trying to highlight his efforts to combine private and public funding to overhaul the nation's highways, waterways, electrical and air travel systems.

Panel Points To Outdated Systems At Nuclear Lab – Associated Press

The chairman of an independent federal oversight panel says many of the safety systems in place at Los Alamos National Laboratory's plutonium facility date to the 1970s when operations first began.

Sean Sullivan with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says the systems are vintage, prone to failure and will need to be upgraded to meet future needs.

The safety board is hosting a public hearing in Santa Fe to discuss the risks associated with plutonium work at the national lab.

Los Alamos last year restarted development of the plutonium cores used to trigger the explosion in nuclear weapons. The U.S. Energy Department wants to ramp up production to 80 pits per year by 2030.

Officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration told the panel Wednesday that Los Alamos has made substantial upgrades in recent years, including structural changes to protect against a natural disaster such as an earthquake.