Appeals Court Orders Permit Reviews Near Chaco, Albuquerque Approves $250K To Assist Migrants

May 7, 2019

U.S. Land Managers Ordered To Review Several Drilling Permits – Associated Press

A federal appeals court says U.S. land managers should have done more to consider the cumulative effects on water resources before approving a handful of oil and gas drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico.

Tuesday's ruling comes in a long-running dispute over hundreds of permits that have been issued in the San Juan Basin. Environmental groups and some Native Americans have voiced concerns about the effects of increased development on the region's culturally significant sites, including Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The groups claimed in their initial complaint filed in 2015 that the Bureau of Land Management violated environmental and preservation laws in approving the permits.

A panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the preservation claims but did rule that land managers needed to do another environmental review for six of the permits.

New Mexico Pension Board Puts Staff Raises On HoldAssociated Press

The board overseeing a $15 billion public pension fund has placed pay increases on hold for top staff members amid recriminations over prior raises and whether they were approved properly.

The New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association board on Tuesday delayed authorization of scheduled pay raises for 11 appointed employees including the executive director of the pension plan for state and local workers.

State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg says the pension's executive director orchestrated pay increases for himself and others without full board approval in violation of state statute and fiduciary obligations. Executive Director Wayne Propst says the accusations are misleading and that he has followed established practices of the agency for the approval of compensation increases.

The pension's unfunded obligations to retirees have negatively affected the credit rating for the state and the city of Albuquerque.

Both Eichenberg and Propst found affirmation Tuesday in an analysis from the state treasurer of procedures for staff pay increases.

State Auditor Brian Colón wrote that Propst acted reasonably and within his authority. He describes conflicting provisions of state statute and board policy on setting compensation as a "legal grey area."

Felon To Spend Life In Prison For Killing New Mexico OfficerAssociated Press

A felon found guilty of killing an Albuquerque police officer during a 2015 traffic stop will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Davon Lymon was sentenced Tuesday after being convicted last month of first-degree murder in the shooting of Officer Daniel Webster after the officer pulled him over on suspicion of having stolen plates on the motorcycle he was riding.

Prosecutors said Lymon — whose prior convictions include manslaughter, fraud and forgery — chose to take the officer's life because he was a felon who had a firearm and didn't want to return to prison.

Lymon again argued self-defense, but the judge said he wasn't entitled to that claim and that he showed no remorse.

During the trial, attorneys showed police lapel video of the moment Webster attempted to handcuff Lymon to a motorcycle and was shot.

Google Reinstates Montana Hunting Group's AdvertisementAssociated Press

Google Inc. has restored an advertisement from a Montana hunting group the company says it mistakenly rejected over animal cruelty concerns.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation ad was restored Friday after being blocked last month, prompting members of Montana's congressional delegation to intervene.

The Missoula-based hunting advocacy organization says it was notified April 25 the paid advertisement was disapproved.

Google's response to the group said "any promotion about hunting practices" was considered animal cruelty and was inappropriate for its network.

The ad promotes a video showing a former foundation board member participating in a muzzle-loader elk hunt in New Mexico.

Google spokesperson Alex Krasov says the company doesn't have a policy prohibiting hunting ads and the rejection was a mistake.

Albuquerque Jewelry Store Owner Pleads Guilty To Tax EvasionAssociated Press

The owner of an Albuquerque jewelry store is facing up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion.

Prosecutors say 76-year-old David Castle was indicted in February 2018.

Castle owns and operates the Gold and Silver Exchange that buys, sells and repairs jewelry.

In his plea agreement last Friday, Castle admitted that he filed no returns for his business for tax years 2010 through 2013.

He also says his business provided no tax withholdings to the Internal Revenue Service and he paid no taxes either for his business or his household.

Prosecutors say Castle's criminal conduct resulted in a tax loss of nearly $212,000 during those tax years.

They say Castle also could be ordered to pay restitution at his sentencing date, which hasn't been set yet.

New Mexico Man Changes Plea, Sentenced For Killing GuardCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A New Mexico man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for the shooting death of a security guard.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported that 28-year-old Bobby Smith of Artesia pleaded no contest to killing 25-year-old Michael Evans in January 2012.

Smith was sentenced to 13 years in prison during a change of plea hearing Monday, suspending four years of his original 17-year sentence on charges of second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and receiving stolen property.

Authorities say video footage showed Smith shooting Evans outside a building in Artesia, 37 miles north of Carlsbad.

A prosecutor says Smith must serve at least 85% of the new sentence.

Mental health experts who examined him say Smith appeared to be suffering from psychosis resulting from a schizophrenic disorder.

New Mexico's US Senators Seek Names For Judicial Vacancy - Associated Press

There will be an open seat on the federal bench in New Mexico, and it will be up to the state's two U.S. senators to recommend to President Donald Trump a short list of qualified candidates for the position.

Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are asking individuals interested in the position to apply no later than June 28.

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera will be retiring July 1 after 15 years on the federal bench.

Herrera has heard cases that have involved everything from the sale of counterfeit Native American jewelry to questions about fines owed by the federal government over missed cleanup deadlines at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Herrera earned her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Albuquerque City Council Approves $250K To Assist Migrants - Associated Press

The Albuquerque City Council has approved a proposal to provide $250,000 to assist asylum-seeking migrants passing through the city.

The 6-3 vote came Monday evening after nearly two hours of public testimony and board discussion.

The $250,000 from the city's general fund will be disbursed to nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other groups to provide things like food, shelter, and medical care for migrants.

The faith-based groups and other community organizations already have assisted the more than 2,200 asylum seekers bused into Albuquerque by federal immigration authorities.

Update: This story has been corrected to reflect that the $250,000 will go to community organizations doing humanitarian aid work.

Republican Vows Different Campaign In New Bid For Congress - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Republican Yvette Herrell promises a different campaign against Democratic Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small in 2020 after facing criticism for avoiding debates.

Herrell, who lost to Torres Small in 2018, told the Hobbs News-Sun she has hired New Mexico consultants and plans to debate the Democrat.

Herrell is seeking the GOP nomination for a rematch with Torres Small. But she will have to first defeat fellow Republican Chris Mathys, a Las Cruces businessman.

The former state lawmaker faced criticism during the 2018 race for refusing to participate in any televised debates against Torres Small in what was a closely watched contest in southern New Mexico.

Herrell says scheduling conflicts prevented her from participating in debates but television stations said Herrell never gave alternative dates.

New Mexico Air Base Part Of Conservation Partnership - Associated Press

Cannon Air Force Base has partnered with The Conservation Fund for the protection of nearly 48 square miles of land adjacent to the Melrose Air Force Range.

The conservation easement was announced Monday. It's funded through the U.S. Defense Department's Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program and New Mexico's economic development agency.

Officials say the agreement represents the largest single transaction in the history of the Defense Department's environmental protection program.

In recent years, Air Force officials have become concerned about the potential for encroaching development around the eastern New Mexico range.

The conservation easement was three years in the making. It will limit development, encroachment and changes to the landscape that could negatively affect flight paths, training operations or habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken.

New Mexico Reaches Settlement On Childcare Assistance Rules - Associated Press

A judge has approved a legal settlement aimed at providing more uniform access to childcare-assistance subsidies overseen by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

Maria Archuleta of the Center on Law and Poverty said Monday that the judge's order provides safeguards against arbitrary decisions about eligibility for childcare assistance.

The order from state District Judge Matthew Wilson sustains the threshold for childcare assistance eligibility at twice the federal poverty line and sets out new disclosure requirements on how benefits are awarded.

The lawsuit against Children, Youth and Families was filed last year on behalf of childcare assistance recipients and the advocacy group OLÉ.

The lawsuit alleged that assistance and copayment rates were set arbitrarily by the state agency without advising parents of their rights to appeal.

7 More New Mexico Counties Suing Opioid Makers, Distributors - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Seven more New Mexico counties have filed federal lawsuits against over two dozen other manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Cibola, Valencia, Catron, Sierra, Curry, Lincoln and Socorro counties filed near-identical complaints late last month in U.S. District Court, joining other New Mexico counties and the Navajo Nation.

The lawsuits are the latest in roughly 2,000 cases that have been brought nationwide by states, cities and counties against opioid makers.

In 2017, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office sued major manufacturers and distributors over allegations that they exacerbated the state's drug addiction crisis.

Santa Fe, San Juan, and Mora counties also have sued, and the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit last year, arguing that Native Americans suffer disproportionately from opioid dependency and abuse.

New Mexican Among Those Killed In Russian Plane Fire - Associated Press

A recent college graduate from New Mexico who had just landed a dream job was among those killed when a Russian plane burst into flames during an emergency landing in Moscow.

Jeremy Brooks of Santa Fe was remembered as a fly-fishing expert by his former boss, Ivan Valdez, owner of The Reel Life fishing shop.

Valdez told reporters Monday that the 22-year-old Brooks had recently graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and was on his way to serve as a fishing guide in northwest Russia.

The Russian airliner that took off Sunday from Moscow was airborne for 28 minutes before returning for an emergency landing while still heavy with unburned fuel, which then ignited after a rough touchdown. Flames quickly engulfed the aircraft, killing 41 of 78 people aboard.

Funeral Set In Texas For UNM Baseball Player Fatally Shot - Associated Press

The funeral for a University of New Mexico baseball player who was fatally shot outside an Albuquerque club will be held next week in his native Texas.

Jackson Weller was a 23-year-old right-handed pitcher from Keller, Texas who transferred to UNM from Gateway Community College in Phoenix.

School officials say Weller wasn't currently on the Lobos' official roster because of injury, but was still p  art of the program and hoped to play again in the fall.

Albuquerque police say no suspects have been identified in the shooting early Saturday and their investigation continues.

Weller's funeral is set for 1 p.m. Monday at the Good Shepard Catholic Church in Colleyville, Texas.

His family has requested any donations made in Weller's honor be done through the Children's Cancer Fund of New Mexico.