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MON: NM Supreme Court issues opinion providing guidance on pretrial detention, + More

 The New Mexico Supreme Court bench.
NMcourts.gov live stream
The New Mexico Supreme Court bench. The high court issued an opinion today that provides guidance to district courts in deciding pretrial detention requests.

New Mexico Supreme Court issues opinion to provide guidance about pretrial detention - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued an opinion Monday providing guidance to district courts in deciding pretrial detention requests from prosecutors and clarifying when the judiciary can deny bail under the state's no-money bail system.

The justices clarified the analysis that courts should follow in determining whether legal requirements have been met for a person charged with a felony to be held in jail while awaiting trial.

Under state law, a felony defendant may be detained if prosecutors file a written motion and prove to a district court that the charged person is dangerous and that release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.

In February, the high court reversed a district court's denial of a motion for pretrial detention of a Bernalillo County man charged with first-degree murder.

But while the state Supreme Court's decision was being sorted out, the suspect allegedly cut off his ankle monitor while awaiting trial. He was arrested weeks later.

Former UNM football player Jaden Hullaby dead at 21 - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

Jaden Hullaby, a 21-year-old college football player who transferred to the University of New Mexico from the University of Texas at Austin to play one season last year, has been found dead, according to his family.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the former tight end and running back for the Lobos was reported missing over the weekend.

A cause of death has not yet been released and it is not yet known where he was found.

Both UNM and UT football programs released statements of condolences today. Lobo Football tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jaden’s family and all who knew him.” Texas Football called the news of Hullby’s death “devastating and tragic,” adding that he was “someone we all enjoyed being around, coaching and spending time with.”

Hullaby announced in December that he planned to transfer again after eight games with the Lobos, but the Journal reports he’d not yet committed to a new team.

Albuquerque may not be able to afford Walmart property in International District - By Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico

Albuquerque city government officials have for months shown interest in buying a shutdown Walmart in the International District, with plans to purchase it using money secured from the state Legislature. The city says now those funds may not be enough.

Albuquerque got just under $2 million in the 2023 legislative session to devote to projects in the Nob Hill area.

Since the end of the session, the city has been talking with Walmart about buying the company’s now-closed property located off of San Mateo Blvd. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office said in April that the city would use the capital outlay funds to buy the Walmart.

The chain store closed in March. Nobody’s purchased it yet.

The city recently announced that the $2 million secured from the Legislature isn’t enough to buy Walmart at its market value.

Ava Montoya, spokesperson for Keller’s office, said the city didn’t know that the capital outlay funds wouldn’t be enough to buy the property until after the 2023 legislative session, and “it was assumed that $2 million would likely not be enough to buy the property.”

“The City and its partners in the state legislature sought to secure any funding possible to help make improvements and bring needed resources to the International District,” she said.

The total land assessment of the Walmart property— something used to determine the property’s tax value — is just over $3 million, according to the New Mexico commercial real estate agency in charge of the property, CBRE.

CBRE Senior Vice President Jim Dountas declined to share the market value price that the property is worth. He said there’s no set asking price on the property, but interested parties are encouraged to put down a full offer.

In comparison, nearby big box stores selling their properties are asking for more than $2 million — like an Advanced Auto Parts on Central Avenue going for sale for $2.26 million or an IHOP on Menaul Avenue up for $3.9 million — with less than 5% of the over 200,000 square footage the Walmart has.

Montoya said Walmart will work with Albuquerque if the city’s initial offer on the private market isn’t met.

She said the capital outlay funds can be used for general redevelopment in the International District if the city doesn’t buy the Walmart property. The funds must be used in the Nob Hill area.

The city is still keeping in mind what the city could replace the closed Walmart with to help local residents, Montoya added.

“The City will listen to the community’s needs and work with the resources available to create changes that best serve them,” she said.

International District resident Enrique Cardiel is the executive director of Albuquerque’s Health Equity Council and one of the local leaders organizing community input sessions. He said elected officials haven’t actually yet attended any of the community input sessions that have been happening, though.

He said there’s not yet a clear timeline on when officials will start discussing ideas with local residents.

Cardiel said there’s a petition with over 200 signatures containing ideas on what locals want to see on the property, like mutual aid programs or a local grocery store. He said the petition also requests that the city of Albuquerque not let the store “become a nuisance” with nobody watching over the property and people breaking into it.

Meanwhile, people are still lacking nearby resources with the absence of the Walmart, he said.

“There’s this long-term plan that would come out of talking to the city, but there’s still the immediate need of people who’ve been without their normal grocery stores for the last month or so,” Cardiel said.

That’s if the city can even buy the property.

Cardiel said it is concerning to some degree that city officials are now saying they can’t afford the Walmart, but it’s about more than just that. He said the community members would probably reach out to whoever ends up owning the property in a push to redevelop the spot with local needs in mind.

“This isn’t about Walmart, in the sense that our answer is not filling that building necessarily,” he said. “It’s just getting more adequate services for the community.”

Breakthrough proposal would aid drought-stricken Colorado River as 3 Western states offer cuts - By Suman Naishadham And Ken Ritter Associated Press

Arizona, Nevada and California said Monday they're willing to cut back on their use of the dwindling Colorado River in exchange for money from the federal government -- and to avoid forced cuts as drought threatens the key water supply for the U.S. West.

The $1.2 billion plan, a potential breakthrough in a year-long stalemate, would conserve an additional 3 million acre-feet of water through 2026, when current guidelines for how the river is shared expire. About half the cuts would come by the end of 2024. That's less than what federal officials said last year would be needed to stave off crisis in the river but still marks a notable step in long and difficult negotiations between the three states.

The 1,450-mile river provides water to 40 million people in seven U.S. states, parts of Mexico and more than two dozen Native American tribes. It produces hydropower and supplies water to farms that grow most of the nation's winter vegetables.

In exchange for temporarily using less water, cities, irrigation districts and Native American tribes in the three states will be paid. The federal government plans to spend $1.2 billion, said Lauren Wodarski, a spokesperson to U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat.

Though adoption of the plan isn't certain, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton called it an "important step forward." She said the bureau will pull back its proposal from last month that could have resulted in sidestepping the existing water priority system to force cuts while it analyzes the three-state plan. The bureau's earlier proposal, if adopted, could have led to a messy legal battle.

"At least they're still talking. But money helps you keep talking," said Terry Fulp, former regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Lower Colorado Basin region. He noted the agreement is a "short-term, three-year deal" and that because the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming didn't face immediate cuts, they were not part of the pact.

The three Lower Basin states are entitled to 7.5 million acre-feet of water altogether from the river. An acre-foot of water is roughly enough to serve two to three U.S. households annually.

California gets the most, based on a century-old water rights priority system. Most of that goes to farmers in the Imperial Irrigation District, though some also goes to smaller water districts and cities across Southern California. Arizona and Nevada have already faced cuts in recent years as key reservoir levels dropped based on prior agreements. But California has been spared.

Under the new proposal, California would give up about 1.6 million acre-feet of water through 2026 — a little more than half of the total. That's roughly the same amount the state first offered six months ago. It wasn't clear why the other states agreed to a deal now when California didn't offer further cuts. Leaders in Arizona and Nevada didn't immediately say how they'd divide the other 1.4 million acre feet.

The Imperial Irrigation District would account for more than half of California's cuts. J.B. Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board of California, said the district has already taken measures to improve water efficiency and will need to do more. He said the district is working on a pilot summer idling program where farmers would sign up to turn off their water for 60 days for forage crops. During that time of year, yields are already down and more water is required, he said.

Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of California, which supplies water to 19 million people in southern California, said the wet winter means the state simply needs less water. His district is planning on leaving 250,000 acre feet this year in Lake Mead, and won't withdraw it until after 2026.

The district will also turn over to the federal government a program that pays farmers to fallow land that typically nets them about 130,000 acre feet of water a year, he said. Metropolitan will save roughly $100 million over three years, he said.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, stressed that the announcement is not a final deal.

"We agreed to a proposal. This is not an agreement," Buschatzke said during a conference call with reporters. Buschatzke said the proposal still needs analysis and approval from the federal government, which will determine how much funding will be allocated for entities that give up water.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs said the deal provided a way to "build our reservoirs back up in the near-term," but added that work remained to address long-term effects of climate change and overallocation. Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and Joe Lombardo of Nevada also praised the agreement.

Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said on Monday that Upper Basin states didn't have a chance to analyze Arizona, Nevada and California's plan in detail. The plan doesn't change how much water the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah or Wyoming will receive.

"The wet winter has given us a bit of space to negotiate, but we must not squander this gift from Mother Nature," Mitchell said. She said Colorado and other basin states urged federal officials to return to longer-term discussions about how to preserve water levels at Lakes Mead and Powell beyond 2026.

Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper called the plan "a hopeful step towards avoiding catastrophe." He pointed toward Bureau of Reclamation analysis of the plan "with hopes this provides a path to a seven-state agreement."

The Colorado River has been in crisis for years due to a multi-decade drought in the West intensified by climate change, rising demand and overuse. Water levels at key reservoirs dipped to unprecedented lows, though they have rebounded somewhat thanks to heavy precipitation this winter.

In recent years the federal government has cut some water allocations and offered billions of dollars to pay farmers, cities and others to cut back. But key water officials didn't see those efforts as enough to prevent the system from collapsing.

Last summer, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation called for the seven basin states to figure out how to cut their collective use of Colorado River water by about 2 to 4 million acre feet in 2023 alone — roughly 15% to 30% of their annual use — but states blew past that deadline and an agreement remained elusive for several more months.

In April, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a plan that considered two ways to force cuts for Arizona, Nevada and California. One contemplated using a decades-old water priority system that would have benefited California and some Native American tribes with senior water rights. The other would have been a percentage cut across the board.

Michael Cohen, a senior researcher at the Pacific Institute focused on the Colorado River, called the amount of cuts the three states have proposed a "huge, huge lift" and a significant step forward.

"It does buy us a little additional time," he said. But if more dry years are ahead, "this agreement will not solve that problem."

New Mexican Spanish, a unique American dialect, survives mostly in prayers - By Giovanna Dell'orto Associated Press

Fidel Trujillo and Leo Paul Pacheco's words resounded in New Mexican Spanish, a unique dialect that evolved through the mixing of medieval Spanish and Indigenous forms. The historic, endangered dialect is as central to these communities as their iconic adobe churches, and its best chance of survival might be through faith, too.

"Prayers sung or recited are our sacred heritage," said Gabriel Meléndez, a professor emeritus of American Studies with the University of New Mexico, who's also a hermano. "When prayers are said in Spanish, they're stronger. They connect us directly to people who came before us."

Preserved mostly in devotions, particularly in humble "moradas" – as the brotherhoods' chapels are called – built of mud and straw in rural communities across the northern reaches of the state, New Mexican Spanish is different from all other varieties of the language.

"Unlike most other forms of Spanish used in the U.S. today, it's not due to immigration in the last 100 years, but rooted back to the 1500s," said Israel Sanz-Sánchez, a professor of languages at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who has researched the dialect.

Spanish explorers and missionaries first reached these valleys isolated between mountains, deserts and plains at the end of the 16th century. Pushed back south by the Pueblo Native Americans, they resettled a century later – and their language evolved to incorporate not only words carried from medieval Spain but also a mixture of expressions derived from Mexican Spanish, Native forms and eventually some English after the territory became part of the United States.

Removed from the center of political and economic power for centuries, these villages preserved the dialect orally.

"You never heard English here," said Felix López of growing up in the 1950s in Truchas, a ridgetop village between Santa Fe and Taos, where this master "santero" – an artist specializing in devotional art – has been helping preserve the 1760s Holy Mission church.

But by the mid-20th century, the push to promote schooling in English led many educators to correct students who used New Mexican Spanish's idiosyncratic mix of grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary, said Damián Vergara Wilson, a professor of Spanish at the University of New Mexico.

He has been working on teaching Spanish not as foreign but as a heritage language that has developed into something uniquely New Mexican.

It contains some words from medieval Spanish, but it also includes pronunciations that developed in New Mexico's villages and words unique to its geographical and historical place at a crossroads of American civilizations. There are several words for turkey, for instance, including an anglicized one used in the context of Thanksgiving.

With such code-switching sometimes disparaged in education and among the public, younger generations often stick to English only or learn contemporary Spanish, especially as spoken in Mexico, with which the state shares a border. That leads many villagers to worry about being able to preserve New Mexican Spanish.

"The dialect we speak is dying out. We're the last generation that learned it as a first language," said Angelo Sandoval, 45, who serves as the "mayordomo" or caretaker of the 1830s San Antonio Church in Cordova, a village just down the valley from Truchas.

Its best chance for survival is prayer. Traditional devotions have been passed down through generations by hermanos, easily memorized because of their ballad-style rhyming. Sometimes they are transcribed into notebooks called "cuadernos." In an adobe niche in a chapel in Holman, some of the handwritten notebooks are 120 years old.

Even in larger cities, people often request prayers in New Mexican Spanish for special occasions, like rosaries for the deceased or novenas for the holidays.

In Santa Fe, the prayer to the widely venerated statue of Our Lady of Peace contains some of the original Spanish terminology, such as "Sacratisimo Hijo" for the "most holy Son," said Bernadette Lucero, director, curator and archivist for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

A nearly century-old women's folklore society -- Sociedad Folklórica de Nuevo México – also regularly practices the dialect for their hymns and nine-day "novenas" prayers to baby Jesus, Lucero added.

In the small town of Bernalillo, where the outskirts of Albuquerque fade into vast mesas, the mayordomos of San Lorenzo also preserve the dialect in their prayers and annual celebrations.

"When we sing an old 'alabado,' we can trace who wrote that," said Santiago Montoya of the Catholic praise (in Spanish, "alabar") hymns that have been passed down through New Mexican brotherhoods.

For 23 years, Montoya and his sister have been the mayordomos of San Lorenzo, a church that was constructed in the mid-19th century with four-feet-wide adobe walls. The community fought to save it when a bigger, modern church was built next door.

But he's also a "rezador," reciting or singing the rosary – a prayer consisting of sets of Hail Marys called "decades" – which he does in the community and particularly for the deceased. He insists on using New Mexican Spanish even if the families only speak English.

"I tell them, 'I'll do three 'decades' in English, but let's teach the kids,'" Montoya said.

Navajo leaders seek tribal members caught up in sober-living Medicare scam in Arizona - By Anita Snow, Associated Press

Navajo leaders on Friday unveiled an operation to find and get needed services to hundreds of tribal members they predict will soon be on the streets of metro Phoenix amid a state crackdown on Medicaid fraud that affected as many as 7,000 Native Americans recruited to illegitimate sober living homes in recent years.

Called Rainbow Bridge, the operation is in response to actions announced this week by the state of Arizona against more than 100 unlicensed and fraudulent sober living homes in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Navajo leaders said they will staff a Phoenix operations center to help Navajo tribal members displaced when sober living homes caught up in the fraud investigation are indicted or their Medicaid funding is cut off.

"I view this as a humanitarian and a human rights crisis," said Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch, adding that the goal is to get victimized people into treatment programs and ultimately back with their families.

Branch said she believes the operators of the homes should also be investigated for human trafficking, but that has not been part of the probe so far.

Navajo officials say that in some cases, people were picked up in white vans and driven to the Phoenix area from places as far away as the sprawling Navajo Nation that stretches across northern Arizona and parts of New Mexico and Utah. In some cases, the people allegedly didn't even know the location of the homes where they were staying.

Harlan Cleveland, of the Navajo Division of Public Safety and special operations coordinator for the project, said that in the previous 24 hours team members found more than two dozen Navajo tribal members wandering the streets of Phoenix after being displaced by the homes.

Along with teams that are actively looking for former residents of the illegitimate sober living homes, the Operation Rainbow Bridge toolbox includes a Facebook page and a TikTok account now under construction. There's also a "211" hotline that the tribe is advertising among its members that allows those affected and their families to get more help.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which oversees the state's Medicaid programs, so far has cut off funding to more than 100 homes targeted by the probe and is prepared to stop the flow of cash to many more in the coming months, state officials say.

Through the scheme, the state's Medicaid program had been paying out money for addiction and other mental health services that state officials say the homes billed for but never delivered.

State officials believe the fake homes have defrauded Arizona out of hundreds of millions of its share of federal Medicaid dollars. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said authorities have seized $75 million so far and have issued 45 indictments in the investigation that has also involved the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General's Office.

Mayes said at the Operation Rainbow Bridge announcement that investigators believe the scam was initially launched several years ago by a Nevada-based criminal syndicate, spawning numerous franchises before the idea spread to other scammers. She said hundreds of fake sober living homes are believed to be currently operating in the Phoenix area, as well as in northern Arizona communities including Prescott.

State officials said this week that a forensic audit by a third party is looking at claims filed by mental health and addiction service providers since 2019. New processes are being put in place for handling unusual claims.

Navajo authorities said tribal members seeking help for addiction have been recruited to the homes with false hopes of recovery from as far away as the northern community of Tuba City, Arizona, and even New Mexico.

Death of 8-year-old girl in Border Patrol custody highlights challenges providing medical care - By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

The recent deaths of an 8-year-old Panamanian girl and 17-year-old boy from Honduras who were under U.S. government supervision have again raised questions about how prepared authorities are to handle medical emergencies suffered by migrants arriving in the U.S., especially as agencies struggle with massive overcrowding at facilities along the southern border.

Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez became unresponsive on a what was at least a third visit to medics Wednesday at a Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas, and died later in a hospital, U.S. Customs and Protection said. The girl had complained that day of vomiting and stomach pains.

She died on her family's ninth day in custody; the most time allowed is 72 hours under agency policy.

The family told agents that the girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia, CBP acknowledged in its second statement on the death. She was diagnosed with influenza on the family's sixth day in custody, which prompted them to be move to another station.

CBP published a detailed account on Sunday, confirming key aspects of what the girl's mother said two days earlier in an interview with The Associated Press. It initially published only a brief statement.

Mabel Alvarez Benedicks told the AP that agents repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter as she felt pain in her bones, struggled to breathe and was unable to walk. She said the daughter was finally taken in ambulance after falling limp and unconscious and bleeding from the mouth.

Agents said her daughter's diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, according to the mother.

The girl's death came a week after 17-year-old Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza of Honduras died in U.S. Health and Human Services Department custody. He was traveling alone.


A rush to the border before pandemic-related asylum limits known as Title 42 expired brought extraordinary pressure. The Border Patrol took an average of 10,100 people a into custody a day the second week of May, compared to a daily average of 5,200 in March.

The Border Patrol had 28,717 people in custody on May 10, one day before pandemic asylum restrictions expired, which was double from two weeks earlier, according to a court filing. By Sunday, the custody count dropped 23% to 22,259, still historically high.

Custody capacity is about 17,000, according to a government document last year, and the administration has been adding temporary giant tents like one in San Diego that opened in January with room for about 500 people.

Those who qualify to be released from custody to pursue asylum are processed for immigration court, which takes 90 minutes to two hours for a single adult and longer for families and creates severe bottlenecks.

By contrast, it takes only 20 minutes to release someone with instructions to report to an immigration office in 60 days, a common practice in 2021 and 2022. A federal judge in Florida who ordered an end to quick releases in March also blocked the administration's attempt to resume them last week in what officials described as an necessary emergency response to overcrowding.

Amid this month's surge, hundreds of migrants slept on the ground, many for days, on U.S. soil between two border walls in San Diego as hundreds more holed up in a remote mountainous area east of the city in huts made of tree branches. The agency provided a limited diet of water and chips or granola bars. Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico border program, said the Border Patrol told him to call 911 when volunteers encountered an 8-month-old between the walls who was "listless and vomiting."


Border Patrol holding facilities are short-term, with people sleeping on floormats with foil blankets. Thick plastic curtains have replaced chain-link fences to prohibit free movement.

Single adults may be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be deported, released in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court or held for long-term detention.

ICE had nearly 26,000 people in long-term detention in April. Its facilities resemble prisons and often are prisons, operated by local police agencies or prison companies like CoreCivic and The Geo Group Inc.

The government generally cannot hold families more than 20 days under a 2015 court order. President Joe Biden broke with predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama by refusing to detain families at all beyond their initial 72 hours with the Border Patrol. His administration recently adopted curfews with electronic monitoring for families released in four cities until they pass initial asylum screenings.

Children traveling alone are transferred to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which generally places them with parents or relatives after short stays in contracted holding facilities. In 2021, the department was unprepared to take children in 72 hours, causing them to languish in Border Patrol care. It eventually contracted for convention centers in California, military bases in Texas and other temporary sites.

The Border Patrol returns some migrants who do not qualify for release in the U.S. to Mexico, including Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, as well as Mexicans.

To deport non-Mexicans, ICE runs charter flights and, in rare cases, flies commercial. In April, ICE chartered 117 flights, including 33 to Guatemala, 21 to Colombia, 20 to Ecuador and 17 to Honduras, according to Witness at the Border, an advocacy group that relies on flight data. WHAT MEDICAL CARE IS AVAILABLE AT BORDER PATROL HOLDING FACILITIES?

The Border Patrol's parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, created a chief medical officer position in 2020 but services are limited. During a tour of a major holding center in McAllen this month, officials said they had about 100 medications on hand and that 23% of detainees had medical needs. The center has a medical booth and a more private exam room with two stethoscopes hanging on the wall.

Medical personnel screen for infectious disease — a critical job during COVID-19. They also ensure detainees have needed medications, deliver babies and respond to any need that can avoid a trip to the hospital.

Its facilities added more than 1,000 "medical contractors" in the last two years, Troy Miller, CBP acting commissioner, said Sunday. He promised "immediate action to review and, where needed, strengthen practices to ensure immediate and appropriate care is being provided to all individuals, especially those who are medically at-risk."


No, and the growing presence of families and unaccompanied children at the border over the last decade has presented U.S. authorities with enormous responsibilities for medical care.

At least six children died during a roughly yearlong period from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration; they were held in either Border Patrol or Health and Human Services custody. In March, a 4-year-old "medically fragile" Honduran girl who was in the care of the Health and Human Services died in a Michigan hospital three days after cardiac arrest.

In 2019, amid a previous surge of border crossings, the Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog observed 750 adults crammed in a space for 125 in El Paso, Texas. People stood on toilets for space to breathe. Another watchdog report in 2019 from Rio Grande Valley found that men were held in standing-room only for a week and some children under 7 were in overcrowded conditions more than two weeks.


Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Washington contributed.

Fired New Mexico archaeological official sues governor, othersSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The former director of the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies is suing state officials, saying his race and gender played a role in his firing.

Eric Blinman filed a lawsuit in federal court late Thursday against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state Cultural Affairs Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego, and several others, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

In the suit, Blinman alleges Garcia y Griego wrongfully terminated him because he was an older white man who complained about a lack of resources to do his job.

He also claims his firing was retaliation because he told a human resources director, who is a defendant, in confidence about his suspicions of improper conduct by Garcia y Griego.

He is asking for an unspecified sum for wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as punitive damages.

Daniel Zillmann, a Department of Cultural Affairs spokesperson, called the allegations "untrue and unfounded." There was "sound and carefully considered reasoning behind the termination of Dr. Blinman."

A representative for the office of Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, did not respond to a message seeking comment Thursday night.