NM Reconsiders Funding Textbooks At Private Schools, 4 State Child Welfare Workers Put On Leave

May 8, 2018

New Mexico Reconsiders Funding Textbooks At Private Schools - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is reconsidering its ban on the use of public funds for textbooks in private schools at the request of the U.S. Supreme Court.

New Mexico's highest court began hearing oral arguments Monday for and against the state's long-running practice of paying for textbooks at private parochial and secular schools.

The six-year court battle was initiated by two parents who say the practice takes money away from public schools and violates a constitutional prohibition on public funding in support for private schools.

The state Public Education Department and private schools say the textbook funding fulfills an obligation to help all students and that the relevant constitutional provision is discriminatory.

The U.S. Supreme Court voided a 2015 state ruling and sent the case back.

New Mexico Places 4 Child Welfare Workers On LeaveThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Four New Mexico child welfare workers have been placed on leave in connection with the handling of a case involving a 7-year-old girl who authorities say was forced into prostitution and pickpocketing.

The Albuquerque Journal reports state Children, Youth and Families Department officials confirmed Monday that four case workers in the child protective division were placed on paid administrative leave while the case is investigated.

According to court records, the state attorney general's office indicated police and state child welfare workers had multiple encounters with the girl's family but the children were not removed.

Agency Secretary Monique Jacobson said last week that she launched an internal investigation into how the department handled the case.

The girl's parents were arrested last week. The children are now in state custody.

FBI: Woman Killed When Man Fires 'Warning Shots'The Associated Press

A northern New Mexico man who reportedly told authorities he fired late-night warning shots to scare off a suspected burglar is accused of second-degree murder in the death of a Native American woman.

A criminal complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque alleges Douglas D. Smith acted with "reckless disregard for human life" when he shot the woman, a resident of the Santa Clara Pueblo, outside his home in the Espanola area early Saturday morning.

The woman's name was not released but the complaint said she was a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo and that Smith is not Native American.

The FBI says Espanola police responded when Smith called 911 to report the shooting but that federal officials took over the case because Smith's residence is within the pueblo's boundaries.

Court records don't list an attorney for Smith who could comment on the allegations.

Authorities Investigate Roadside Shooting Of DonkeyThe Associated Press & The Daily Times

Authorities are investigating the death of a pet donkey that was shot from a roadside in northwest New Mexico.

The Daily Times reports the donkey named Ralph died last month after someone in a vehicle fired two shots at the family pet.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office says the donkey was in a pasture northeast of Farmington on April 17.

Authorities say a vehicle stopped on the shoulder of County Road 3000 near the residence of the donkey's owners and fired the gunshots.

Detective Michael Farni says the owners did not see the vehicle but they heard its engine following the shooting.

Lobbyist Requests Investigation Of New Mexico LawmakerThe Associated Press

Former political lobbyist Laura Bonar has asked the New Mexico Legislature to investigate her allegations of sexual harassment against state Rep. Carl Trujillo.

Attorney Levi Monagle requested the investigation on behalf of Bonar in a letter Tuesday to the director of the Legislature's legal office.

Bonar, an animal welfare activist, went public last week with allegations that she was sexually harassed on multiple occasions by the Santa Fe-area lawmaker as they worked together on legislation in 2013 and 2014. Trujillo has said the allegations are lies and cast blame on political opponents.

Under new anti-harassment policies, the formal complaint triggers an evaluation by the House speaker and an outside attorney.

Two of Bonar's professional colleagues say that she told them in 2014 about inappropriate advances by Trujillo.

Group Seeks To Protect Roundtail Chub In Arizona, New MexicoAssociated Press

A nonprofit conservation group says it is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect a large minnow known as a roundtail chub that's found in Arizona and some parts of New Mexico.

The Center for Biological Diversity announced plans Monday for legal action to save the chub.

The center says the chub faces threats including habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change and should be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

It says the fish historically was found throughout the lower Colorado River basin, but has now been reduced to a fraction of its range and abundance. It says the fish was once an important food source for native people.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Jeff Humphrey says the agency does not comment on current or potential litigation.

New Mexico Set To Begin Primary Vote For Governor, CongressAssociated Press

Early voting is about to begin in New Mexico's hotly contested primary elections for two open congressional seats and the governor's office.

The state's primary election takes place on June 5 and early voting begins Tuesday at county clerk's offices across the state and through absentee mail-in ballots.

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs and Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham are campaigning for governor and leaving their congressional seats wide open. Second-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for re-election this year. Lujan Grisham faces primary competition from state Sen. Joseph Cervantes and businessman Jeff Apodaca.

Democrats have piled into the primary race for the open Albuquerque-based congressional seat. The district leans Democrat. Republicans are waging a four-way primary in the state's southern congressional district, long dominated by Republicans.

Outlook For Vital Southwestern US River Remains GrimAssociated Press

Forecasters say this year's outlook for the most important river in the Southwestern U.S. remains grim.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that April storms failed to produce much snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado River.

Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river water, is expected to get only 43 percent of the average inflow.

But officials say Lake Powell and its companion, Lake Mead, will have enough water to avoid mandatory cutbacks this year.

The Colorado River serves about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in seven U.S. states and Mexico.

An 18-year drought has reduced the river's flow. Researchers have said climate change is also to blame.

Ex-Girlfriend Says Political Consultant Damaged Her VisionLas Vegas Review-Journal, Associated Press

The ex-girlfriend of a former Nevada political consultant facing allegations of domestic violence says she has permanent vision damage after he struck her in the eye.

Former GOP consultant Benjamin Sparks is due in a Las Vegas courtroom Tuesday to answer to a misdemeanor battery charge after prosecutors say he grabbed or pushed the woman in March.

Sparks had worked on Republican campaigns for several politicians, including New Mexico congressional candidate Yvette Herrell.

Sparks does not yet have a listed attorney and did not answer a phone call seeking comment Monday.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Sparks' ex-girlfriend, who is being represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, filed a report Friday with police alleging Sparks hit her in the eye and left her with a torn retina in March.

Four Workers On Leave Over Child Prostitution CaseAlbuquerque Journal

The Children, Youth and Families Department has placed four case workers on paid leave following revelations the department had numerous previous complaints about a couple arrested for allegedly prostituting a young girl.

The Albuquerque Journal reports CYFD would not release the names of the employees. The move comes after arrests last week of Teri Lee Sanchez and James Stewart Sr.

Sanchez is charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Stewart is accused of prostituting his 7-year-old daughter and forcing the girl and her brother to panhandle and pick pockets.

The attorney general’s office began investigating the pair last month after school officials alerted authorities about possible human trafficking. The Journal reported the investigation found CYFD had 25 previous referrals of possible abuse of the girl and her two brothers, but the children remained with Sanchez and Stewart until the end of April.

The children are now in CYFD custody and the department has launched an internal investigation.

Company To Invest $750M In Four New Gas PlantsAlbuquerque Journal

A company that opened a large natural gas processing plant and pipeline system near Carlsbad in December announced it will invest another $750 million in four additional plants in New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Sendero Midstream Partners LP made the announcement Monday. Sendero is owned by New Jersey-based Energy Capital Partners.

The company said it will build out the other facilities over five years and once they are operating, they will process more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day serving oil and gas producers in the Delaware basin in southwest Texas and southeast New Mexico.

Sendero officials said the company will employ about 150 people per day as it builds out its four additional plants over the next five years. Once operational, all the plants will employ a total of about 70 people.

Court Hears Suit Against Police In Man's 1976 DisappearanceAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has heard oral arguments over whether the family of a man who disappeared four decades ago can pursue claims against the City of Albuquerque.

The wrongful death lawsuit brought by the son of Jose Farfan went before the Supreme Court on Monday for oral arguments.

The 2016 lawsuit accuses two Albuquerque police officers of taking Farfan to the mountains east of town and shooting him in the spring of 1976. The lawsuit also accuses authorities of seeking to cover up the case.

The officers were not charged in Farfan's death. The lawsuit alleges that after Farfan's disappearance, authorities collected evidence tying the officers to his killing that Farfan's family only learned about in 2016.

Boy Drowns At Hotel While In Albuquerque For Robotics EventAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say a 14-year-old Nigerian boy has drowned at a hotel swimming pool.

According to police, the boy was part of a group of 20 students from Nigeria. They had travelled to Albuquerque for a robotics competition.

While the group was staying at a Wyndham Hotel in the city, police say, the teen entered the swimming pool and drowned Monday, with hotel staff jumping into the water to try to save the child, pulling him from the water and attempting CPR.

An Albuquerque police officer also attempted CPR before an ambulance arrived.

After nearly an hour of efforts to save him, the 14-year-old was pronounced dead, and the officer first called a chaplain, then the Islamic Center of New Mexico to assist the students who had travelled with the boy.