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New Mexico Shuffles Management Of Food Benefits, Cities Confiscate Illegal Fireworks

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New Mexico Shuffles Management Of Food BenefitsThe Associated Press

The director of an office overseeing supplementary food and financial assistance within the New Mexico Human Services Department has been reassigned amid state and federal inquiries into that office's handling of benefit applications.

The secretary of the Human Services Department announced in an email to agency employees that Marilyn Martinez is no longer director of the income support division and will instead oversee the agency's financial services bureau. Martinez could not immediately be reached.

Human Services spokesman Kyler Nerison said Wednesday the management change is unrelated to an ongoing internal investigation of the division's handling of benefits.

Martinez invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called in May to testify in federal court about allegations that managers changed or pressured workers into changing application information for emergency food benefits.

New Mexico Announces More 'Record-Breaking' TourismAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has announced the state saw record-breaking tourism for the fourth year in a row.

The governor said Tuesday around 700,000 more trips were taken in New Mexico last year, bringing the total number for 2015 to 33.4 million.

Last year, Martinez said half a million more people visited New Mexico in 2014 than in 2013 and credited the state's New Mexico True campaign. That campaign features the state's famous outdoor locations and New Mexico celebrities, such as mixed-martial arts fighter Carlos Condit.

New Mexico True advertisements have been spotted in airports around the country.

Martinez is scheduled this month to visit Taos, Elephant Butte Lake State Park and White Sands National Monument as part of her tour.

Farmington Officer Selected As Navajo Nation Police ChiefThe Associated Press

A Farmington, New Mexico, police officer has been chosen as the Navajo Nation's police chief, following a lengthy hiring process.

The tribe Wednesday announced the selection of 40-year-old Phillip Francisco, now a Farmington Police Department patrol and training officer.

The tribe's last police chief, Jim Benally, stepped down in 2008 amid political turmoil. Various officers have overseen the department temporarily since.

Francisco's law enforcement career also includes stints with the Aztec Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

The tribe initially limited the position to its members, but tribal spokesman Mihio Manus in January said the restriction was lifted because it was a struggle to find qualified applicants.

Manus says Francisco is half Navajo.

Court Orders Release Of Kids, Not Parents, From ICE CustodyThe Associated Press

A federal appeals court says Homeland Security officials must quickly release immigrant children — but not their parents — from family detention centers after being picked up crossing the border without documentation.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that lengthy detentions of migrant children violated a legal settlement ordering their quick release after processing.

But the appeals court ruled that immigration authorities can continue to detain the children's parents, reversing a trial judge's ruling.

The government poured millions of dollars into two large detention centers in Texas after tens of thousands of immigrant families, mostly mothers with children from Central America, crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. in 2014. Many have petitioned for asylum after fleeing gang and domestic violence back home.

Man Accused Of Violating Federal Law By Trying To Sell HawksThe Associated Press

A 44-year-old New Mexico man is charged with violating a migratory bird law by allegedly trying to sell hawks without federal permission.

Wayne Martin of the Cochiti Pueblo in Sandoval County pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Albuquerque.

The indictment accuses Martin of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act on Feb. 29, 2012. The law makes it illegal to possess, offer for sale, or sell migratory birds or parts or products of migratory birds.

John Van Butcher, a federal public defender appointed to represent Martin, did not immediately return a call for comment on the allegations against Martin.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Santa Fe Superintendent Leaves For Private SectorThe Associated Press

The superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools has announced that he is leaving the district for a private education company.

Superintendent Joel Boyd vowed to turn the city's public schools around within five years and told he school board two months ago that he planned to finish out his contract. He withdrew his name from consideration for the top job in another district.

But Boyd he said Tuesday that he will resign after four years to become senior vice president of the San Francisco-based education software company BrightBytes. The firm collects and uses data to recommend ways to improve academic achievement.

There is no word yet on who may replace Boyd.

Crews Battle Blaze At Bosque Del Apache Refuge In New MexicoAssociated Press

The visitor center and tour loop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge will remain closed as crews try to get a handle on a wildfire that has burned more than a square mile at the southern New Mexico refuge.

Officials warned the public Tuesday via social media that visiting the refuge is discouraged while firefighters battle the flames.

The fire started Monday and is burning mostly invasive salt cedar trees.

Chris Leeser with the refuge says crews are working to contain the fire within existing fire breaks that have been bolstered by lines put in by bulldozers.

About 120 personnel have been assigned to the fire.

The refuge is an important stop for migratory birds. Every winter, thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl make this stretch of the Rio Grande home.

Las Cruces Council OK's Background Checks ResolutionThe Associated Press

The Las Cruces City Council has approved a resolution calling on the New Mexico Legislature to pass a measure that would require comprehensive background checks for all firearm sales in the state.

The resolution drew strong opposition from the public, and the Las Cruces Sun-News reports Councilor Ceil Levatino voted against it and Mayor Pro-tem Greg Smith unsuccessfully sought to table it.

While the resolution has no effect of law, Mayor Ken Miyagishima says the idea is to reduce gun violence and strengthen the criminal background check system.

Levatino says state law is already effective at blocking sales to those who have no right to possess a firearm under the law.

One resident started an online petition to send to Gov. Susana Martinez and lawmakers, saying the city council doesn't represent them on this issue.

Illegal Fireworks Confiscated Over Holiday Weekend Associated Press

Authorities in Las Cruces say they confiscated an estimated $3,000 worth of illegal fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend, while Albuquerque officials issued more than two dozen citations.

Officials in both communities announced the numbers Tuesday.

The cache of seized fireworks in Las Cruces included six aerial shells that were believed to cost $150 each. Those shells were said to have been purchased elsewhere and brought into Las Cruces in violation of city ordinance.

Fireworks illegal within city limits include aerial spinners, helicopters, mines, missile-type rockets, Roman candles, shells, stick-type rockets, chasers and firecrackers.

In Albuquerque, firefighters received nearly 2,400 reports of illegal fireworks from Saturday through Monday. Half of the reports came from the city's 311 app.

There were no major injuries or fires in either city.

Suspect Pleads Guilty In Fatal 2015 Albuquerque Shooting Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A suspect has pleaded guilty in connection with a fatal drive-by shooting that killed an Albuquerque teenager last year.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Nicholas Gonzales pleaded guilty to shooting at an occupied dwelling, resulting in great bodily harm, and conspiracy.

Last month, a New Mexico district attorney dropped charges against two other suspects in the June 2015 shooting of 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver.

Donovan Maez and Christopher Cruz had faced multiple charges in the case, including first-degree murder.

The Journal says charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Chavez-Silver was killed while at an Albuquerque house party.

Police say shots were fired from a vehicle into the home. They didn't believe Chavez-Silver was the intended target of the attack.

Fire Restrictions Persist On Mountainair, Sandia Districts Associated Press

Recent rains have helped to reduce the potential for wildfires in central New Mexico, but officials on the Cibola National Forest say things are still dry enough to burn.

Officials say fire restrictions are still in place on the Mountainair and Sandia ranger districts given that it will take a significant amount of saturating rain before restrictions can be lifted.

Campfires and wood stoves are prohibited under the stage one restrictions. Explosives, fireworks and any pyrotechnic devices also are off-limits.

Forest officials also say several trails and roads are restricted on the Mountainair district in the wake of a human-caused wildfire that charred about 28 square miles of the Manzano Mountains and destroyed a dozen homes.

The closure orders could remain in effect for months.

Writer Highlights Route 66 Safe Havens For Black TravelersAssociated Press

It was called the "Mother Road," a vital highway bridging Chicago and Los Angeles through the Southwest that represented unlimited possibilities in 20th Century United States.

Black travelers for decades, however, needed a guide known as the Green Book to help locate the few motels and restaurants that would serve.

Now a writer is hoping to bring attention to the businesses along the historic Route 66 that once provided safe havens for black travelers who braved the road for simple family vacations. Candacy Taylor says the world of rural barber shops, hospitable gas stations, and multicultural desert motels are at risked of being lost forever unless something is done to map their legacy.

She is working on a project to map such businesses as the De Anza Motor Lodge in Albuquerque.

Prosecutors, Defense Clash At Fraud HearingsAssociated Press

The New Mexico attorney general's office says it will present evidence that former Sen. Phil Griego used his influence over the legislative process as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state owned building as a real estate broker.

Assistant Attorney General Zach Jones on Tuesday described Griego as a sophisticated politician who communicated with state officials, fellow lawmakers and legislative staff to help approve the sale of a state owned building in downtown Santa Fe, and later earn a commission as a real estate broker without proper disclosure.

Defense attorney Thomas Clark says the evidence will show that prosecutors are overreaching. He said Griego was hired by a private party to help negotiate the purchase of a state building because of Griego's knowledge as a real estate broker, and not to exert political influence.

Griego has pleaded not guilty to charges that include fraud, bribery, tampering with public records and unlawful interest in a public contract.

Baby Hospitalized After Ambulance Crash In AlbuquerqueAssociated Press

Authorities say an infant remains in critical condition after an ambulance the child was traveling in was struck by a pickup truck in Albuquerque.

Police spokesman Tanner Tixier says the ambulance had its lights and sirens on as it headed south on Tuesday carrying the 1-month-old child, who had been in an incubator. Police say the eastbound truck had entered an intersection through a green light when it struck the ambulance, causing it to roll onto its side.

The baby was extracted from the vehicle and taken to a hospital for emergency surgery.

No other injuries have been reported.

Police say they have not yet decided whether either driver will face charges.

Ex-Navajo Nation Lawmaker Gets Jail Term In Slush Funds Case Associated Press

A former Navajo Nation lawmaker accused of misusing tribal funds has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay the tribe $9,000 in restitution.

Hoskie Kee pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit bribery. He was accused of funneling more than $18,000 to the families of five other tribal council delegates.

Kee must report to the Crownpoint Department of Corrections at noon Monday and then serve 150 days of supervised probation after completing his jail term.

He also must pay $8,000 restitution to the Navajo Nation.

A judge on June 30 also ordered Kee to appear before the tribe's legislative council within 90 days of his release from jail and make a statement of apology.

Rock Slide Shuts Down Portion Of Scenic RailroadAssociated Press

Officials say riders on a scenic railroad in southern Colorado had their Fourth of July trips cut short after boulders tumbled down across the tracks.

No one was injured by the Monday morning rock slide, which occurred on the west of side of Rock Tunnel, about 35 miles southwest of Antonito. Officials with the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad had ordered trains to head back to their starting points in Antonito and Chama, New Mexico after the incident.

Crews had worked to remove the boulders from the tracks, and railroad officials say all trains and routes were in full operation Tuesday morning.

The 64-mile Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which was built in 1880, was once used to haul ore from the silver mines in the San Juan Mountains.