Weekend News Roundup: State Worker Salaries Boosted For 2008 Pay Dispute

Jun 27, 2014

State Worker Salaries Boosted For 2008 Pay Dispute - The Associated Press

About 5,300 state workers will receive hourly salary increases from 13 cents to more than 50 cents in this week's paychecks to help resolve a six-year-old union contract dispute.

State officials said Thursday that salaries were adjusted in early June to reflect wage rates that should have been in place starting in 2008.

Employees will get paychecks Friday reflecting the increases for a two-week pay period.

There will be separate checks issued in the upcoming budget year for back pay — thousands of dollars in some instances.

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that 10,000 employees are entitled to retroactive pay increases because former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration didn't follow union contracts in distributing 2008 salary money. Only about 5,300 of those employees are still working for the state.

Bloomfield Names New Police Chief - The Associated Press

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. (AP) — The city of Bloomfield has chosen a Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputy, who was once fired from the Los Alamos County Police Department, as its new police chief.

The Daily Times reports that 38-year-old Randy Foster was named this week from six finalists.

City Manager David Fuqua says Foster overall scored highest among the candidates.

Foster was fired from Los Alamos County police last year after a federal lawsuit filed by a former corporal alleged that Foster and another officer committed him to a mental institution against his will. The county later settled but Foster filed his own lawsuit in January.

Foster also served from 1995 to 1998 as a reserve police officer for the Portales Police Department.

Forum Focuses On Water Planning For Rio Grande - The Associated Press

The Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly wants to hear from residents as work gets underway to update the region's water plan.

The assembly is hosting a public forum Saturday in Albuquerque.

In the decade since the first water plan was adopted, significant conservation efforts have been undertaken to reduce water use in the Middle Rio Grande. Still, increased population and drought suggest future water supplies could fall short for people and the environment.

The assembly has asked hydrologists and engineers to look at water use and renewable supplies between 1998 and 2013. The forum is designed to start the conversation on how best to respond to what has happened in the high desert over the last 15 years.

New Mexico is in its fourth year of severe drought.

Democrat Gary King Hires New Campaign Manager - The Associated Press

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King says he's hired a new campaign manager.

King said Friday that Keith Breitbach will be responsible for day-to-day operations of his campaign against Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in the November general election.

Breitbach replaces Steve Verzwyvelt, who resigned last week because of disparaging comments posted on Twitter in the past about women and Republicans.

Verzwyvelt left a day after King announced his hiring to replace Jim Farrell, who left the campaign after the primary election to spend more time with his family in Las Cruces.

Breitbach was campaign manager this year for U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, and he's been vice president of Totten Communications, a public policy and political media firm in the Washington, D.C. area.

Deputies: Espanola Councilor Pistol Whipped Man - The Associated Press and KOB TV

A northern New Mexico city councilor is facing aggravated battery and assault charges after deputies say he pistol whipped a man and shot at his vehicle.

KOB-TV reports that the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office arrested Espanola city councilor Eric Radosevich this week in connection with a bizarre Saturday altercation.

According to authorities, 43-year-old Radosevich got into an argument with a man at a gas station after Radosevich approached the man's wife.

Deputies say Radosevich later followed the man to the Roadrunner Cafe in Pojoaque and struck him several times with a black handgun. Authorities say he also fired two rounds toward the victim's truck.

It was not known if Radosevich has an attorney.

2 Accused Of Stealing $480K Of Fuel In New Mexico - The Associated Press and Daily Times

Authorities say two men are accused of stealing fuel from the company that operates the Navajo Mine for the past three years.

The Daily Times reports that the San Juan County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that Juel Jordahl and Roy Swapp have been arrested on charges including racketeering and dealing with stolen property.

They are accused of siphoning $480,000 in fuel since 2011.

Australian-based company BHP Billiton first reported the allegations to the Sheriff's Office in April.

Officials say Jordahl, who had a contract to dispose of scrap metals from mining operations, started sending employees over several times a day.

They say Jordahl's workers used a pump station at the mine in Waterflow to fill up surplus fuel tanks and Swapp, a BHP manager, went along with it.

New Mexico County In Prairie Chicken Lawsuit - The Associated Press and Hobbs News-Sun

Commissioners in a southeastern New Mexico county have voted to officially join a lawsuit to fight the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports that Lea County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to add the county's name to a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Earlier this month, Lea County was listed in a joint complaint, filed in a federal court in Texas, that includes the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four other New Mexico counties.

Ranchers and oil companies believe the listing will have a negative effect on the ranching, oil and gas industries in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. That's where the chicken's habitat is known.

In March, the Obama administration listed the prairie chicken as threatened.

CN Wire Manufacturing Facility To Be In New Mexico - The Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez says CN Wire will establish its first North American manufacturing facility in Santa Teresa, bringing 300 new jobs to the community.

State officials announced Thursday that CN Wire will invest $42 million to purchase and renovate a 256,000 square-foot building in the Santa Teresa Business Center.

The facility will serve customers throughout North and South America, mostly in the automotive and aerospace industries.

The company's products include single wire, multi-wire, bunched and stranded wire, tin-plated copper and braid wire.

However, officials with the International Wire Group said New Mexico's Board of Finance still must decide whether the industrial revenue bonds financing CN Wire's project and tax breaks can be issued.

International Wire says it's an existing New Mexico business that is a direct competitor of CN Wire.

New Mexico Legislator Files As Write-In Candidate - The Associated Press

Democratic Rep. Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint has filed to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election for her northwestern New Mexico legislative district.

Jeff lost a court fight to appear on the primary election ballot and had vowed to wage a write-in candidacy.

She was among several write-in, independent and minor parties candidates who filed Thursday with the secretary of state's office.

Jeff is running against Democrat Doreen Johnson of Gallup. There's no Republican in the race.

Two independent candidates filed in Albuquerque legislative races.

Robert Schiller is challenging Democrat G. Andres Romero. The winner will replace Democratic Rep. Henry Kiki Saavedra, who's retiring. There's no Republican candidate.

William Pratt is running against Republican Rep. Larry Larranaga. There's no Democratic candidate.

New Mexico Court Restricts High-Interest Loans - The Associated Press

New Mexico's highest court has clamped down on small consumer loans carrying quadruple-digit interest rates.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday capped interest rates at 15 percent for "signature loans" by two companies that had been charging an annual percentage rate of up to 1,500 percent.

The court ordered the lenders to repay some interest charges to consumers.

The companies — Cash Loans Now and American Cash Loans — made the loans from $50 to $300 at offices in Albuquerque, Farmington and Hobbs.

The court said the companies started offering the loans — usually to the working poor — to avoid state restrictions imposed in 2007 on payday loans, including a cap on fees.

Payday loans are between 14 and 35 days, but signature loans are for a year.

Nuke Leak Probe Focuses On Los Alamos National Lab - The Associated Press

A state regulator says officials investigating a radiation leak from the government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have turned their focus to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

New Mexico Environment Department General Counsel Jeff Kendall said Thursday that the Department of Energy's accident investigation team has been at the lab in northeastern New Mexico for about three weeks.

Kendall said that probe is one of just nine underway into what caused a barrel of toxic waste from Los Alamos to burst at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico, contaminating 22 workers and shuttering the nation's only permanent repository for waste from nuclear bomb building.

Kendall made the comments during a New Mexico Court of Appeals hearing on a dispute with a watchdog group over the permitting process for WIPP.

Hiker In Serious Condition After Fall In Sandias - The Associated Press and KOAT TV

Authorities say a woman who fell from a cliff in a mountain range outside of Albuquerque is in serious condition.

KOAT-TV reports the woman was free-climbing Thursday morning in the Sandias when a rock she was holding onto broke.

Rescue workers say she tumbled and landed on her back.

They say she was conscious when they reached her. Crews lifted her to the top of the crest and she was airlifted to a hospital.

Mark Beverly, a member of the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Crew and who also knows the hiker, says the woman is an expert climber.

Officials say drought conditions have made the Sandias unstable and that could have contributed to her fall.