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KUNM News Update

Analysts Review ABQ Crime Rate, NM Lawmakers Receive Harrassment Training

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State Analysts Review Factors Fueling Albuquerque Crime RateThe Associated Press

Analysts for the Legislative Finance Committee say they are undertaking a review of the Bernalillo County criminal justice system.

The jurisdiction includes Albuquerque, where crime has been on the rise since 2010.

Analysts told lawmakers Monday that they expect to complete a report this spring on factors contributing to Albuquerque's rising crime rate.

They are reviewing what — if any — affect a lagging economy, drug abuse and gang activity have had, as well as whether reforms in the last several years have played a part in driving up crime rates. They noted that there is no evidence yet to suggest that is the case.

They say so far they have found that people with multiple arrests committed the vast majority of crimes from 2010 to 2016.

The Latest: New Mexico Lawmakers Attend Harassment TrainingThe Associated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers are taking anti-harassment training for the first time since 2004.

Human resources consultant and attorney Edward Mitnick of Massachusetts on Monday led lawmakers through lessons about harassment policies and how to create a culture of mutual respect in the statehouse. He says harassment often is about people abusing their power and authority over others.

The training is part of an effort to make the Capitol work environment safer amid a nationwide debate over sexual misconduct.

The two-hour class was mandatory for the Legislature's 112 lawmakers. Legislators signed in as the training session began.

The Legislature also is in the process of revising its anti-harassment policies after women began breaking their silence about sexual misconduct and harassment in the Statehouse. 

Mystery Shrouds New Mexico Jailer's Civil Rights-Era MurderThe Associated Press

The murder of a Hispanic jailer in New Mexico in 1968 — a year of unrest in the United States — has long divided residents, scholars and civil rights advocates.

Assailants abducted Eulogio (ee-loh-HEE-oh) Salazar in front of his home in the rural community of Tierra Amarilla (tee-AYR'-uh ah-mah-REE'-yah), and left his body in a ravine.

The murder came as Salazar was preparing to testify against Hispanic-rights activist Reies Lopez Tijerina and his followers. The group was accused of leading an armed raid of the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse six months earlier.

Tijerina denied having any role in Salazar's killing up until his own death in 2015.

Some scholars say Salazar may have been a casualty of overzealous law enforcement working to dismantle the influence of Mexican-American civil rights groups.

The 50-year-old case remains unsolved after two investigations.

ACLU Sues Pver Albuquerque Panhandling OrdinanceThe Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit over an Albuquerque panhandling ordinance that went into effect last month.

The ordinance passed by the Albuquerque City Council prohibits panhandlers from soliciting motorists at medians and sidewalks. It also makes it illegal for motorists to physically interact with them.

City Councilor Trudy Jones sponsored the measure. She says the intent of it is to make streets safer.

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit last week on behalf of five Albuquerque residents, including a woman who is homeless and another who regularly donates to panhandlers. The ACLU says the ordinance criminalizes poverty, and violates the free speech rights.

New Mexico Legislature Weighs New Sexual Harassment PolicyAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are taking steps to prevent sexual misconduct and harassment at the state Capitol on the day before the Legislature convenes.

Lawmakers were scheduled to take mandatory anti-harassment training on Monday from a human resources consultant. Similar training was last offered in 2004.

A panel of leading lawmakers also is weighing revision to the policy against sexual misconduct and harassment in the Statehouse and procedures for reporting violations.

Female lobbyists and elected officials have said widespread sexual harassment at the Capitol has gone unchecked under current procedures.

A draft of the new policy spells out in greater detail what behavior constitutes harassment. It prohibits behavior that a reasonable person would find intimidating, demeaning or coercive. Any sanctions against lawmakers ultimately are decided by the House or Senate.

New Mexico Lawmaker Wants Harassment Settlements DisclosedAssociated Press

Legislation has been proposed that would require greater public disclosure about New Mexico state government payouts to settle legal disputes over workplace harassment and personnel issues.

Republican Sen. Sander Rue of Albuquerque announced Friday a bill that would require the state to publish a summary of facts leading to settlement agreements, the agency or office involved, and financial terms including damage payments and attorney fees. The information would need to be published within 30 days of a settlement on the state's online information clearinghouse, known as the New Mexico Sunshine Portal.

Rue said current law delays the release of settlement information for six months and makes it difficult in many ways to track human rights and workplace violations in government.

He wants the bill considered as an issue of taxpayer fairness.                   

Former New Mexico Legislator Changes Parties To LibertarianAssociated Press

A New Mexico newspaper says former state legislator Sandra Jeff has changed parties, from Democrat to Libertarian.

The Gallup Independent reports Jeff changed her voter registration last Thursday at the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office and intends to run for secretary of state.

She listed an Albuquerque address on the voter registration card.

Jeff was appointed to the Gallup-McKinley County Schools Board of Education last year, but was defeated in her election bid as persistent questions about her residency dogged her campaign.

The Independent says Jeff claimed for years to live in Crownpoint, but an investigation showed she resided in Albuquerque.

Jeff had a stormy three terms in the state Legislature representing a portion of McKinley County and the Navajo Nation, often voting with Republicans in committee and on the floor.

Cost Of Addressing Carlsbad Sinkhole Could Reach $43 MillionCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

It could end up costing more than $40 million to remediate a brine well on the southern edge of Carlsbad and prevent its collapse.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the new price tag is the result of the latest budget proposal developed by the Carlsbad Brine Well Remediation Advisory Authority.

The estimate comes amid contract negotiations with companies that have submitted proposals for filling the decommissioned well, which was closed in 2008 when the ground was deemed unstable.

Initial costs were closer to $25 million. Authority Chair John Heaton said during a recent meeting the real cost is still unknown.

Money for the remediation would come from several sources over four years, and some of that funding would depend on legislation that is expected to be introduced during the upcoming session.

Secondary Elevators To Be Out Of Service At Carlsbad Caverns - Associated Press

Officials at Carlsbad Caverns National Park say the park's secondary elevators will be out of service for required maintenance from Jan. 22-24.

The work involves shortening the cables installed on both secondary elevator cars last February.

Park officials say stretches in new hoist cables is common, especially in long hoistways like the 750-foot shaft at Carlsbad Caverns.

There are two separate elevator systems in two separate elevator shafts at the park.

The primary elevator system was installed in 1955 and went out of service in November 2015 when a six-inch motor shaft sheared off.

Work to repair and modernize the primary elevators began last December and is scheduled to be completed in May.

The secondary elevators have been providing all park elevator service while the primary elevators are being rebuilt.

Mixed Jury Verdicts In Groping Case Against PhysicianLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A Doña Ana County physician accused of groping patients has been convicted of criminal sexual contact but jurors acquitted him of a second count of that misdemeanor crime and deadlocked on a third.

A jury returned its verdicts against 65-year-old Robert Woody of Chaparral after seven hours of deliberations on Friday, a day after the trial judge dismissed four felony kidnap counts for lack of evidence.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that prosecutors intend to retry Woody on the deadlocked charge.

Woody was charged in 2016 after four male patients accused him of misconduct and state regulators suspended his medical license.

Defense attorney Jim Darnell said Woody touched the patients on their groins and buttocks as part of routine examinations, but the patients testified that Woody's actions went beyond touching.

EPA Settles With Company To Assess Uranium Sites On Navajo Nation Associated Press

Federal officials have reached a settlement to have eight abandoned uranium mines assessed on the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says EnPro Holdings Inc. will install fencing and signs warning residents and visitors of potential radiation exposure at sites in northeastern Arizona near Cameron and Tuba City. The company also will assess for radiation and conduct biological and cultural surveys.

The work is expected to cost $500,000 and be complete by the end of the year.

EnPro is the successor to the A&B Mining Corp, which operated on the reservation in the 1950s.

Uranium was mined extensively from the Navajo Nation for use in Cold War weapons production. Hundreds of mines were abandoned without being cleaned up.

The tribe has banned uranium mining and processing since 2005.

Flights Planned For Annual Survey Of Mexican Gray WolvesAssociated Press

Residents of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico may see and hear a low-flying helicopter in coming weeks as biologists conduct their annual population survey as part of a project to introduce Mexican gray wolves to their native habitat.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say flights will be conducted between Jan. 22 and Feb. 3 near Alpine, Arizona, and Reserve, New Mexico.

The operation will include an attempt to capture selected young wolves not yet been fitted with a radio telemetry collar, in addition to wolves with collars that need a battery replacement or any wolf appearing to be sick or injured.

The last annual survey indicated there were at least 113 wolves.

Lawmakers Tackle Crime As New Mexico State Finances Improve - By Morgan Associated Press Lee

New Mexico lawmakers and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez are preparing to boost spending on public schools, early childhood education and law enforcement as state government climbs out of a financial crisis.

Strategies for reducing property crime and violence in New Mexico's largest city also are at the top of the agenda, as lawmakers convene Tuesday for a 30-day session.

New Mexico government income for the coming fiscal year is expected to surpass annual spending obligations by $199 million. The governor wants to raise an additional $99 million to bolster spending on education, prisons and business incentives.

Pay increases are slated for teachers, prosecutors, judges, corrections officers and state workers.

Martinez is pushing for tougher criminal penalties in her final year in office, while many lawmakers stress community policing initiatives.

First Trial Date Set In State Lawsuit Over Opioid Epidemic - By Ken Miller, Associated Press

The first trial date has been set for a lawsuit by a state against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic.

Oklahoma is one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleging fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic.

State Attorney General Mike Hunter says a judge has granted his request for a May 28, 2019, trial date for the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of their subsidiaries.

The companies deny wrongdoing.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office says other states that are suing are Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington state.

Lawsuits by Native American tribes and dozens of local governments are also pending.