Tuesday Morning Roundup

Jul 16, 2013

Cibola Lifts Fire Restrictions In Sandia District - Associated Press

Fire restrictions in the Sandia Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest and Grasslands near Albuquerque have been lifted.

Forest Supervisor Elaine Kohrman says recent rain has increased moisture levels in vegetation to the point where it should limit the spread of wildfires.

Kohrman also says the long-range weather forecast predicts cooler weather and more rain for the area.

The forest says its only district that remains closed is the Mountainair Ranger District. The district remains dry despite receiving scattered precipitation.

US: Funding Suspension By NM Didn't Violate Rules - Associated Press and The Santa Fe New Mexican

A federal agency says New Mexico's suspension of payments to 15 behavioral health care providers didn't violate federal rules.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won't go beyond that by saying whether Medicaid regulations required the funding suspensions.

But the agency believes the state Human Services Department acted in accordance with federal regulations and guidance provided by the federal agency.

The funding suspension was prompted by findings of an audit by a state contractor. It said 15 nonprofit providers failed to meet standards, over billed by tens of millions of dollars and may have engaged in fraudulent activities.

All of the providers are seeking exceptions to have their funding restored, and eight have filed a lawsuit.

NM Auditor Faults State Education Agency - Associated Press

State Auditor Hector Balderas says he's concerned about financial oversight of state-approved charter schools by the Public Education Department.

Balderas on Monday ordered the agency to prepare plans for correcting problems identified in a financial audit of the department and charter schools.

The department has until Aug. 5 to submit proposed corrective actions.

The department's audit for the 2012 budget year was released by Balderas, who said he was troubled by the number of potential problems. Those ranged from poor financial record-keeping by some state-approved charter schools to procurement violations at the department such as services continuing after a contract expired.

A department spokesman said the agency will work with Balderas' office on issues raised in the audit.

NM Immigrant Advocates Eye Rep. Pearce's SupportĀ  - Associated Press

Immigrant advocates in New Mexico are launching a campaign to try to win over Republican Congressman Steve Pearce.

A coalition of religious leaders and activists has scheduled Wednesday a candlelight vigil outside of Pearce's Roswell office and say they hope to meet with the congressman's staff to discuss the U.S. Senate's immigration reform proposal.

In addition, the group Somos Un Pueblo Unido has planned Wednesday to hold a rally outside of the Republican Party headquarters in Hobbs to draw attention to immigrant oil and gas workers who could benefit to changes in federal immigration laws.

Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, say immigrants want to meet with the GOP representative to share their stories.

The New Mexico congressman says he doesn't support the Senate bill, which gives immigrants in the country illegally a pathway to citizenship.

Flash Flooding, Mudslides Close A Road In Pecos - Associated Press

Flash flooding and mudslides have shut down a portion of State Road 63 in Pecos.

New Mexico State Police say the closure is from mile post 15 northbound.

They say the flash flooding and mudslides are presenting dangerous driving conditions for motorists and residents.

State police said Monday that the affected portion of State Road 63 will remain closed until further notice.

Settlement Reached In NM Pay-To-Play Case - Associated Press

The state Investment Council has reached a $643,000 settlement with a financial consulting firm sued for steering government investment business to political supporters of former Gov. Bill Richardson.

A spokesman for the council said Monday the defunct Dallas-based firm of Aldus Equity Partners and its three partners agreed to pay the money and cooperate with agency efforts to collect damages against others because political pressures allegedly influenced the awarding of investments.

Aldus advised the council on making some investments such as in private equity funds.

Aldus co-founder Saul Meyer pleaded guilty in 2009 to securities fraud in New York involving a pension fund there. Aldus was fired by the New Mexico agency after being implicated in the New York scandal.

The proposed settlement must be approved by a state court.