UNM Regents To Meet On Frank's Future, NM AG Seeks Review Of Police Investigation Policies

Dec 5, 2016

UNM Regents To Consider President’s Future – Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents will hold a special meeting this week to discuss suspending or firing President Bob Frank.

The Albuquerque Journal reports this comes in the wake of a report that raised questions about Frank’s behavior with staff members. The attorney who wrote the report raised the possibility of a hostile work environment, with some staff describing bullying behavior.

Others said the president was “generally affable.”

Regents President Rob Doughty declined to comment except to say the Regents’ actions are in the best interests of UNM. Frank’s attorney said the president had not seen the report and could not comment.

Frank became president in 2012 and his contract ends May 31. He said earlier this fall he would not seek a contract renewal, but did not say why. He was offered a tenured position in the UNM Health Sciences Center. It’s unclear if that would be impacted by any outcomes of the Board of Regents’ meeting, which takes place Wednesday.

New Mexico AG Seeks Review Of Police Investigation Policies – The Associated Press 

New Mexico's top prosecutor is asking a panel of experts to review the policies and procedures that law enforcement agencies around the state use when it comes to investigating shootings involving officers or other use-of-force incidents.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Monday that as the chair of the state's Law Enforcement Academy Board, he has appointed a subcommittee to perform a review and audit.

The inquiry will cover more than 190 agencies in the state. A report and recommendations are expected next summer.

Balderas says police shootings can have devastating consequences for communities and that the public deserves a process it can trust.

Balderas' announcement comes after allegations were raised that Albuquerque police altered or deleted video recordings from lapel cameras. The city plans to hire an independent investigator to look into the issue.

The Latest On New Mexico's Forecast For State FinancesThe Associated Press

State economists say New Mexico is likely to collect far less revenue than previously expected this budget year and next as employment, wages and economic growth lag.

Economists from three executive agencies and the Legislature on Monday revised downward figures for the state's annual revenue stream by $131 million to $5.6 billion for the current fiscal year, and by $127 million for the fiscal year starting in July. The new revenue estimates set a benchmark for state lawmakers who will meet in January to shore up state finances and craft a new budget.

The state's budget crisis has spilled over into the courts, where public defenders say they cannot keep up with caseloads, as other state agencies and public universities grapple with one-year spending cuts as high as 8 percent.

The new state revenue forecast indicates spending is likely to outstrip operating reserves by $69 million during the current fiscal year. Recurring revenues are expected to rebound next year and still fall $93 million short of current spending.

Boy Scouts To Relocate National Museum To New MexicoThe Associated Press

From merit badges and uniforms to an impressive collection of Norman Rockwell paintings and drawings, the Boy Scouts of America will be packing up more than a century of scouting history and taking it to the wilds of northern New Mexico.

The organization announced Monday that it'll move its national museum from its current home in Texas to the Philmont Scout Ranch, which has served as an adventure destination for generations of troops and their families.

Plans calls for expanding the existing Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library to make room for a collection that includes more than 600,000 items and reams of historical documents and photographs.

Construction is expected to start next year.

With the ranch hosting more than 32,000 visitors each year, officials say more people will get to see the national collection.

New Mexico Beats Texas For Expansion Of Warehouse CompanyThe Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez says New Mexico has beaten out Texas for the expansion of a homegrown warehouse and distribution company.

Valley Cold Storage and Transportation ships goods in New Mexico and Texas.

The Las Cruces-based company plans to invest $14 million to build a new 105,000 square-foot facility and create up to 33 jobs in Santa Teresa, tripling its current workforce.

The new facility will be the third major expansion in Santa Theresa's 166-acre Westpark Logistics Center in the last six months.

Westpark is the first new industrial park to be built in Santa Teresa in the last 15 years.

Valley Cold Storage and Transportation offers state-of-the-art refrigeration and transportation services to the retail, food service, food distribution and agriculture industries of southern New Mexico and western Texas.

New Mexico County Gets Grant For Mental Health Pilot Program – The Associated Press

Southern New Mexico's Dona Ana County has been awarded a nearly $3 million grant to improve mental health services.

Officials with Sen. Mary Kay Papen's office says federal officials chose the county to be one of only five communities in the nation to implement the new outpatient treatment program.

The four-year grant is aimed at helping people with serious mental illness stick with treatment rather than cycle in and out of jails and hospitals.

The program is expected to start in mid-2017. It'll focus on people who have been hospitalized two or more times, or have repeated interaction with the courts as a result of a mental illness.

The program is expected to serve 30 to 40 people a year.

Papen says the grant wouldn't have been possible without the cooperation of advocates in New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

Universities Exploring 'Sanctuary' Status For Immigrants - By Russell Contreras And Sophia Tareen, Associated Press

Universities and colleges in several states are considering labeling themselves "sanctuary campuses" amid fears from immigrant students.

College administrators in New Mexico are looking into proposals that would grant immigrant students living in the country illegally protections while they pursue their studies. New Mexico has a higher percentage of Latino residents than any other state.

Meanwhile, pressure is building from advocates in California, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas for universities there to provide sanctuary to these immigrant students, known as DREAMers.

Some advocates and professors are asking colleges not to cooperate with federal authorities on immigrant issues, while others want administrators to block federal immigration authorities from searching campuses.

The movement comes after President-elect Donald Trump promised to end an executive order that granted temporary status to students living in the country illegally. He also vowed to withhold federal funding from "sanctuary cities."

New Mexico Revises Budget Projections As Revenues FalterAssociated Press

Economists for the state of New Mexico are revising downward estimates for how much money state government will have available as lawmakers begin crafting a new budget.

Economists from three executive agencies and the Legislature will release on Monday estimates of general fund revenue for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

Tax collections from the three months ending on Sept. 30 suggest the state's budget crisis is deepening. Revenue streams decreased by 9.4 percent to $1.3 billion compared with the same period in 2015.

Spending at most state agencies for the current fiscal year was cut by 5.5 percent during a special legislative session that concluded in October. New Mexico has nearly depleted general fund reserves, prompting a downgrade in the state's credit rating.

New Mexico Budget Crisis Hits Defendants, Museums, Colleges Associated Press

New Mexico's grinding budget crisis is taking a toll in courtrooms where overburdened attorneys have denied legal counsel to poor defendants, at museums reeling from layoffs and admission hikes, and at state universities and colleges grappling with steep spending cuts.

A prolonged downturn in oil and natural gas markets is squeezing budgets in several states that rely heavily on severance taxes and royalties.

Most New Mexico state agencies already are dealing with spending cuts of 5.5 percent. Now, they're bracing for more belt tightening as state economists prepare to release reduced revenue estimates for the current and coming fiscal year.

The forecast is due Monday and sets the benchmark when legislators meet in January to write a state budget for the coming fiscal year and to fix current shortfalls.

New Mexico Highlands University Gets STEM FundingAssociated Press

Students seeking science and other similar degrees at New Mexico Highlands University will have more support toward completing their studies thanks to a nearly $3 million grant.

The university says the five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education is designed to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who enter the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math — collectively known as STEM.

Those working toward careers as secondary education math teachers will also benefit.

Highlands Education Dean Lora Bailey says the top priority is to increase student transfer, retention and graduation rates. Introductory math courses will also be redesigned and a math learning lab will be created.

Bailey also has proposed developing a center where STEM students can access academic and financial help.

ABQ Council Member To Introduce Soccer, Rape Kit ResolutionsAssociated Press

Expect some moves by Albuquerque City Council member Dan Lewis on Monday.

The Republican says he wants to introduce a resolution to study the best location in the downtown area for a 10,000-seat soccer stadium.

Lewis says the stadium would be used by the Albuquerque Sol Football Club, which is seeking entry into the professional United Soccer League.

Lewis also wants to introduce a resolution that aims to eliminate the backlog of unprocessed sexual assault evidence kits. He says Albuquerque police currently have 800 evidence kits. The resolution would require the city to work with CNM to incentivize students into the forensic technology field.

The council will meet Monday afternoon.

Las Cruces Barricade Situation Ended With Fatal ShootingAssociated Press

Las Cruces police say a man is dead as a result of a shooting that occurred after officers went to a hotel where a person reportedly had "suicidal intentions."

A police statement did not specify how the Friday night shooting occurred but said no officers were injured and that two officers were placed on standard administrative leave.

The statement said the man had barricaded himself in a third-floor room and that police tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with him for several hours.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported the man was Joshua Dunne, a veteran and graduate student who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The paper reports the police did not identify Dunne by name, but said shots were fired and the man was struck at least once.

Tribal Leaders Press Feds On Drilling Plan In New MexicoAssociated Press

Leaders from several American Indian communities want federal land managers to consider the cultural significance of a large swath of land surrounding Chaco Cultural National Historic Park as they plan for more oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors recently passed a resolution calling for the Bureau of Land Management to make permanent a 10-mile buffer around Chaco park to prevent any drilling activity.

They're also asking for the federal agency to develop a master leasing plan that takes into consideration the significance of the region.

The resolution comes as the agency holds the last of several public hearings Friday on the Navajo Nation as part of an expanded review of management in the area that was sparked by concerns over oil and gas development.

EPA To Require Mines To Offer Cleanup Assurances - By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency says it plans to require mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill.

Friday's announcement follows a 2015 court order for the agency to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.

The requirement would apply to hard rock mining, which includes mines for precious metals and other ores.

The EPA spent $1.1 billion on cleanup work at abandoned hard rock mining and processing sites from 2010 to 2014. Companies can avoid cleanup costs by declaring bankruptcy.

The National Mining Association says the new rule is unnecessary because existing programs prevent mines from becoming Superfund sites.

The EPA is considering similar actions for additional industries including chemical manufacturing, power generation and petroleum refining.

US Judge Won't Release Ids Of Informants In Prison Gang CaseAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge in Albuquerque so far is refusing to provide defense lawyers with the identities of confidential informants in a New Mexico prison gang racketeering case.

U.S. District Judge James Browning in the past week denied six defendants' requests for information about informants who provided information to law enforcement about a 2014 killing of a gang member. A request on behalf of one defendant is still pending.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that an FBI case agent wrote in a search warrant affidavit that all nine informants would be marked for death if their identities are revealed.

Defense lawyers argue that they want to know if the government has relied on informants who are looking to benefit themselves by providing information to authorities.