UNM To Vote On School Seal, Bernalillo County To Try New Behavioral Health Strategy

Nov 3, 2016

University Of New Mexico To Vote On Seal Amid Racial FearsThe Associated Press 

The board of regents of New Mexico's largest university is considering revising its half-century old seal amid concerns by Native American students.

A University of New Mexico committee on Thursday voted to accept the recommendation to change the seal after months of forums and public input.

Native American student groups want the University of New Mexico to scrap the seal that depicts a rifle-toting frontiersman and a sword-carrying Spanish conquistador. They say it represents the frontier's violent era.

But some Hispanic activists oppose removing the conquistador since they say it represents the state's Hispanic heritage.

The altered seal would feature on diplomas and lecterns.

The full board of regents will consider the measure at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Bernalillo County To Try New Behavioral Health StrategyThe Associated Press

With New Mexico in the middle of a budget crisis, cities and counties around the state are going to have to look for new ways to boost behavioral health services and fight the effects of opioid abuse.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins made the comments while visiting Washington, D.C., for a meeting hosted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Hart Stebbins and other officials are talking about the potential of pay-for-success programs in which local governments make payments to contractors and other service providers only if they meet certain milestones and outcomes.

Bernalillo County — the state's most populous county — is getting ready to issue a request for proposals for its first pay-for-success contract. The initiative would be aimed at prevention and early intervention.

Former Police Chief To Avoid Jail Time For Stalking, Battery – The Associated Press & The Roswell Daily Record

A small southeastern New Mexico town's former police chief has accepted a plea agreement that will keep him out of jail but bars him from ever working in law enforcement in New Mexico again.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that after appealing his conviction to district court, former Dexter Police Chief Mario Contreras entered an Alford plea on Wednesday to one petty misdemeanor count of battery and one misdemeanor count of stalking, of which Contreras was found guilty of in May after a trial in magistrate court.

Under the plea agreement, Contreras will serve one year of unsupervised probation and can never apply for a peace officer position in New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police began investigating after women complained that Contreras stalked them, made crude gestures and touched them inappropriately.

DA Says He'll Prosecute Officer In Drug-For-Sex ProbeThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

A New Mexico district attorney says his office will move forward with prosecuting the case of a Las Cruces police officer who was fired in June amid allegations he provided drugs to a woman in return for sexual favors.

A spokesman for District Attorney Mark D'Antonio said Friday that local law enforcement sent the case to their office for review late last week. Prosecutors plan to take the case to a grand jury in the coming weeks.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Thursday that former Sgt. Alex Smith, the officer under investigation, was fired in June.

The newspaper reports that documents obtained last week indicate Smith gave drugs to a woman, who told an informant during a recorded conversation that she had performed sexual favors for him in exchange for the narcotics and information.

New Mexico Highlands University Hopes To Avoid LayoffsThe Associated Press & The Las Vegas Optic

New Mexico Highlands University officials say they believe they can avoid layoffs in upcoming budget cuts.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that Vice President for Finance & Administration Max Baca said last Friday that solvency measures enacted by state lawmakers and the governor will mean a cut of about $1.5 million in Highlands' state appropriation.

Baca says he thinks the university can weather that reduction without laying anybody off, but is warning that any additional funding cuts might mean layoffs.

The state funding cuts came in October, when lawmakers approved a solvency package that cut spending by 5 percent for colleges and universities.

Netfilx's 'Longmire' To Shoot Season 6 In New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The Netflix series "Longmire" will return to New Mexico to produce its sixth and final season.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Santa Fe Film Office Director Eric Witt says production on the 10-episode season will begin in March. He says the series will use locations in and around Santa Fe, Pecos, Los Alamos and Las Vegas.

The contemporary crime drama is set in Wyoming and based on the "Walt Longmire" mystery novels authored by Craig Johnson.

The series stars Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips and Katee Sackhoff and is produced by The Shepherd/Robin Co. in association with Warner Horizon Television.

Ad Dollars Flow In Secretary Of State RaceThe Associated Press

Campaign finance filings show the Republican candidate for secretary of state spent more than $265,000 over the past month on political ad buys and media production.

Candidate Nora Espinoza reported the expenditures Thursday to state campaign finance regulators ahead of a late-night deadline.

The state lawmaker from Roswell is competing against Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver to become the state's top elections administrator and regulator of campaign finance disclosures.

Espinoza is campaigning on concerns about voter fraud and used one recent television ad to show that an Albuquerque man was able to enter his dog on voter registration rolls. Toulouse-Oliver says she referred that case to law enforcement.

Toulouse-Oliver's recent expenses were not immediately available.

New Mexico Teacher Attendance Requirement Sparks 'Surprise' – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexico

A revamped New Mexico teacher evaluation changed after a court ruling is sparking criticism from some northern New Mexico educators.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Santa Fe and Los Alamo school leaders are surprised that attendance now will be a required part of the teacher evaluation system.

The state Public Education Department now requires attendance to be factored in to teachers' performance evaluations after a judge ruled the evaluation system needed to be more uniform. Before, state officials gave school district the option to use attendance among other factors.

The state says including attendance helps reduce teacher absence, saving money and increasing students' learning time.

Santa Fe Superintendent Veronica Garcia says she doesn't want teachers to come to work sick.

New Mexico Official Arrested, Accused Of Stealing ComputersThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A 47-year-old state Game and Fish Department official is accused of stealing $13,500 of computers from an agency where she previously worked.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Budget Director Kelly Muniz was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of larceny in the theft of a dozen tablet computers from the Department of Health.

State police say they recovered the computers.

Muniz was booked into the Santa Fe County jail and later released. No phone is listed under her name and online court records don't list an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

The Department of Game and Fish told the New Mexican that it has placed Muniz on administrative leave and the Department of Health told the newspaper that the tablets didn't contain any sensitive information.

New Mexico Suspect Charged With Killing Albuquerque OfficerThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says prosecutors have filed murder charge against a man suspected of shooting and killing an Albuquerque police officer more than a year ago.

Suspect Davon Lymon has a lengthy criminal history and has been held on federal drug and weapons charges since October 2015 arrest.

Balderas says the murder charge plus four other felony charges were filed against Lymon on Thursday.

Police say Lymon shot Officer Daniel Webster during a nighttime traffic stop outside a pharmacy and holed up in a shed until SWAT officers and a police dog found him and took him into custody.

Police say Webster had pulled over Lymon for driving a motorcycle with a stolen license plate.

Man Pleads Guilty To Robbing Several Albuquerque-Area BanksThe Associated Press 

A man accused of robbing five Albuquerque-area banks and attempting to rob a sixth has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Prosecutors say 36-year-old Christopher James Baum of Albuquerque entered his plea Thursday.

Under terms of his plea agreement, Baum will be sentenced within the range of 20 to 30 years in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

Baum was arrested two months ago after allegedly committing the offenses from Aug. 16-30.

Prosecutors say Baum robbed three different Bank of the West branches plus a Wells Fargo branch and a Nusenda Credit Union branch.

He also was accused of trying to rob a Bank of Albuquerque branch.

Annual Balloon Fiesta Records Nearly 840,000 Visits For 2016The Associated Press

This year's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta marked nearly 840,000 visits and attracted 550 registered balloon teams from more than a dozen countries around the world.

Fiesta officials recapped the 45th annual event Thursday. They say the balloons that lifted off — including more than 100 special-shaped balloons — represented 19 countries and 43 states.

As for the number of visits, this year's total of 839,309 was down from 2015's estimated 955,700. Officials say that's still more than the five-year average of 817,899.

The nine-day fiesta started Oct. 1. Balloons launched successfully most mornings, except for Oct. 3 when winds were too strong. Evening events were canceled just twice due to the weather.

Next year's fiesta has been scheduled for Oct. 7-15.