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State Settles Over Richardson-Era Scandal, Maestas Removed From Charter School Leadership

Robert Smith
Creative Commons

New Mexico Reaches Settlement In Bill Richardson-Era Deal Associated Press

New Mexico will collect $4.9 million under a settlement agreement with a real estate investment company as the state resolves losses from a string of politically influenced investment deals dating back to the administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson.

The New Mexico State Investment Council approved the settlement Tuesday with Eastern Real Estate Development after discussing the matter out of public view in an executive session.

The investment council previously negotiated more than $32 million in settlements in the wake of the pay-to-play investment scandal, with some funds still held in escrow pending court approval.

Linked to a 2005 deal, the new settlement is the second-largest to date in the effort. A $24 million state settlement with Chicago-based Vanderbilt Capital Investors is being challenged in court under a whistleblower lawsuit.

Authorities ID Remains As Those Of Missing Treasure Hunter – Associated Press

Authorities say a treasure hunter missing for more than six months has been confirmed dead after searchers found his remains in the New Mexico wilderness west of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Police spokesman Greg Gurule said Tuesday that the office of the medical investigator confirmed the remains recovered along the Rio Grande are those of Randy Bilyeu.

The Colorado man disappeared in early January while searching for author Forrest Fenn's $2 million cache of gold and jewels in northern New Mexico.

Fenn dropped clues about the treasure trove in his 2011 memoir, "The Thrill of the Chase," inspiring tens of thousands to search the Rocky Mountains for it.

Authorities called off the official search for Bilyeu in January, citing a lack of evidence to point them in the right direction.

Ex-Wife Of Treasure Hunter Says Man Died Chasing 'Hoax'The Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The ex-wife of a man who died while searching for a cache of gold and jewels says she believes he lost his life chasing a hoax.

Linda Bilyeu told The Albuquerque Journalshe's disappointed that Randy Bilyeu, the father of her two daughters, died while searching for treasure Santa Fe author Forrest Fenn says he's hidden in the Rocky Mountain region.

Although 54-year-old Bilyeu was reported missing in January, his remains weren't found until July. Bilyeu was visiting Santa Fe from Broomfield, Colorado, to search for Fenn's antique treasure chest. It's said to contain more than $1 million worth of gold, jewels and artifacts.

Fenn called the death "very unfortunate" and said Tuesday that the treasure is not a hoax and is not hidden in a dangerous place.

IHS Awards $700K Contract Aimed At Improving Patient CareThe Associated Press

The Indian Health Service has awarded a one-year, $700,000 contract to an independent expert to help federal government-operated medical facilities improve patient care and safety.

The IHS says the contract with The Joint Commission for accreditation services will help test the readiness of IHS hospitals for compliance surveys conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Officials say the training and education will benefit IHS facilities in the Dakotas, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The IHS says it's also responding to requirements of agreements with CMS for the Rosebud and Pine Ridge hospitals in South Dakota. Recent issues at those hospitals have highlighted poor health care services at government-run facilities caring for Native Americans across the country.

New Mexico Delegates Give Clinton A Second ChanceThe Associated Press

New Mexico political delegates to the Democratic National Convention who traveled to Philadelphia in support of Bernie Sanders are giving Hillary Clinton a second look amid a deluge of testimonials highlighting the presidential nominee's record of public service.

Sanders delegate John Meade of Santa Fe said Wednesday that the convention has helped him appreciate Clinton's record of community service, and that he plans to vote for her in the fall despite reservations about ties to corporate interests.

Clinton won the New Mexico primary in June, earning 18 pledged delegates and all 9 superdelegate votes from party leaders. Sanders earned 16 pledged delegates in New Mexico before endorsing Clinton.

U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico are speaking to the convention Wednesday evening. They support Clinton.

APS School Board Member Removed From Charter SchoolAlbuquerque Journal

A charter school has placed its executive director, who also serves on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board, on paid leave following a report by the state auditor that found she altered a receipt to obtain reimbursement from the school.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the governing council of the school Analee Maestas founded, La Promesa Early Learning Center, voted unanimously to put her on leave.

State Auditor Tim Keller said in a report that Maestas paid about $340 for work done at her home, then changed the receipt to make it appear the work was done at La Promesa.

The Public Education Department is also looking into finances at La Promesa. Maestas told the Journal she takes the charges seriously and has hired an attorney, but declined further comment.

Maestas won election to a second term on the APS school board in 2015 and has previously served as board president.

Supervisor At Bernalillo County Jail Under InvestigationAlbuquerque Journal

A supervisor at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center who trained officers in appropriate use of force has been on leave since January over allegations of excessive force.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sgt. Eric Allen is a frontline supervisor and vice president of the correctional officers union. The jail administrator and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office declined to give details about the allegations.

But president of the union, Lt. Stephen Perkins, said Allen is being investigated for at least once incident involving excessive force. Perkins defended Allen’s performance and says officials are retaliating against Allen over his union activities.

The jail is facing more questions over how it trains officers and handles complaint of abuse.

Gov. Martinez May Reconvene LegislatureAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is contemplating the need for a special Legislative session to address dwindling state operating reserves.

Martinez on Tuesday said her office has been working for weeks with executive agencies and a key legislative committee on how to resolve the state's fiscal imbalance and that a solution may involve a short, pre-negotiated Legislative session.

New Mexico is one of several states dealing with general fund declines linked to reduced energy prices and production.

The Republican governor spoke at a meeting of the State Investment Council. The council has postponed decisions on shifting investments in a $220 million tobacco settlement fund that might be used to replenish state operating reserves.

New Mexico Lawmaker Eyes 'Right To Die' Bill Amid Court LossAssociated Press

A state lawmaker is pushing for a law to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with help from doctors.

Rep. Bill McCamley was scheduled to discuss his proposal before a Legislative committee in Albuquerque on Tuesday. It could launch the beginning of a heated debate going into the next legislative session.

McCamley says a task force on the bill will submit ideas.

Last month, the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to overturn a state law preventing doctors from ending the lives of terminally ill patients. The state's assisted suicide law classifies such act as a fourth-degree felony.

The case involved a Santa Fe woman with advanced uterine cancer who wanted courts to clarify New Mexico's laws preventing her from ending her life and putting doctors at risk.

US Authorities Seek Warrant For Tribal Shield In ParisAssociated Press

Federal authorities in New Mexico are seeking a warrant for the return of an Acoma Pueblo shield from a Paris auction house that has come under criticism for selling Native American ceremonial items.

Prosecutors requested the warrant in a federal court filing Monday that argues there's reason to believe the shield was stolen sometime in the 1970s before eventually being sent to France — where U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of tribal ceremonial items typically hold no weight.

It's unclear whether the French government would allow for the U.S. Marshal Service or another federal agency to seize items under a warrant approved by an American judge.

The shield was set for sale at Paris' EVE auction house in May. Auction organizers pulled the item after Acoma Pueblo produced paperwork alleging the shield was stolen.

Payment For Jury Duty Lagging Around New Mexico KOAT-TV, Associated Press

Some New Mexico jurors have been left waiting for their pay because money in the payment fund ran out.

Bernalillo County t spokesman Tim Korte told KOAT-TV that the fund that pays jurors is the same one that pays English interpreters, and the Bernalillo County has had to hire more interpreters than expected.

Korte says this is a statewide issue and all counties are affected.

Jury duty pays $6.75 per hour in addition to mileage.

The payments resumed in July when the new fiscal year started. Pay for the interpreters must be prioritized because the state Constitution requires the courts to provide interpreters for all defendants and jurors who speak limited or no English.

New Mexico's State Parks See Big Jump In Visitors Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says more people last year visited New Mexico's state parks than ever before.

The governor is scheduled Wednesday to announce that around five million visitors dropped by state parks in 2015. State officials say that's one million more than 2014.

Officials say Cimarron Canyon State Park saw a 61 percent increase and Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell saw a 19.5 percent jump.

New Mexico is home to 35 state parks.