Auditor Says New Mexico Secret Settlements Were ‘Abuse Of Power’ - By Russell Contreras Associated Press
New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón says around $2.7 million in secret settlements with appointees under former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez were an “abuse of power.”
Colón said Monday a recent audit into past sealed agreements during the Martinez Administration found that 12 lacked proper documentation, transparency, and investigations. He says the secret settlements appeared to be protecting the former governor’s “political legacies” and her political agendas rather than taxpayers.
The audit came following revelations about secret settlements of lawsuits against state officials under the Martinez Administration. Some of those settlements were sealed until after her departure from office at the end of 2018.
Martinez did not immediately return a phone message.
Colón says he forwarded the audit to the state Attorney General’s Office to review.
Long-Running Coal Plant On Navajo Nation Stops Production - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
A coal-fired power plant in the Navajo Nation has shut down after operating for nearly 50 years.
The Navajo Generating Station near the northern Arizona community of Page stopped producing electricity on Monday.
The 2,250-megwatt plant was one of the largest in the U.S. West and a longstanding target of environmentalists.
They argued it polluted the air and contributed to health problems in nearby communities.
The plant’s owners in 2017 decided to shutter it in favor of cheaper power produced by natural gas. The closure had been expected by year’s end, but the exact day wasn’t certain as the plant depleted a coal stockpile.
The plant employed mostly Native American workers who were offered transfers to other sites in Phoenix.
The coal mine that feeds the plant also closed.
Governor Resumes Publication Of Her Meetings, Travel - By Morgan Lee Associated Press
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham resumed publication Monday of a running list of her appointments and work travel after a seven-week lapse.
In response to an inquiry by The Associated Press, Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the delay in publishing the governor’s agenda was an oversight.
Weekly online updates about the governor’s conversations and appointments were introduced earlier this year as an extra step toward transparency. It marked a change from the administration of Republican predecessor Susana Martinez, who offered a rough itinerary with far fewer details.
Lujan Grisham's agendas show recent meetings with a variety of energy companies amid an overhaul of methane regulations and new mandates for cleaner sources of electricity.
During an annual meeting of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association in Santa Fe in September, Lujan Grisham met privately with petroleum multinational ConocoPhillips and natural gas producer Hilcorp Energy. No names were listed for company representatives who attended.
State regulators overseen by Lujan Grisham are in the midst of drafting new proposed rules for state oversight of methane amid efforts to limit leaks and the discourage the release or burning of the powerful greenhouse gas.
2 New Lawsuits Accuse Jesuit Priests In Albuquerque Of Abuse - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press
Two new lawsuits have been filed that allege three Jesuit priests who once ministered at a downtown Albuquerque church sexually abused two victims.
In a story Sunday, the Albuquerque Journal reported one of the alleged victims contends he was sexually abused eight years ago at Immaculate Conception Church.
In the other lawsuit, a woman contends she was molested by two Jesuit priests from Immaculate Conception beginning in 1968 when she attended first grade at a nearby school.
The Journal says the two priests accused in that suit have since died.
Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province have denied the allegations in the lawsuits, saying their investigations don’t support the claims.
Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall says his firm expects to file more lawsuits in the coming months against religious orders.
New Mexico Utility Embarks On Energy Planning Mission - Associated Press
New Mexico’s largest electric utility is reaching out to vendors and energy companies around the world for ideas as it works toward going emissions-free.
The Public Service Company of New Mexico announced Friday it’s seeking information on the types of resources and emerging technologies capable of helping it reach the goal.
That ranges from storage systems and carbon emissions controls to hydrogen technologies.
New Mexico earlier this year adopted renewable energy mandates that call for zero emissions by 2045. PNM vows to beat that deadline by five years.
The utility is seeking indicative pricing for modeling and analysis purposes. Separate requests for proposals are possible in the future.
The call for input comes as the utility embarks on a tri-annual resource planning effort centered on how it will serve customer needs for the next 20 years.
Liberal New Mexico Lawmaker Facing Challenge From Ex-Aide - By Russell Contreras Associated Press
State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, one of the most liberal lawmakers in New Mexico, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from a former campaign worker.
Edwina Cisneros recently announced she will seek to unseat Roybal Caballero from her southwest Albuquerque seat. Roybal Caballero last month launched her re-election fundraising kickoff in El Paso, Texas.
Cisneros worked as Roybal Caballero’s field coordinator in 2018.
The 69-year-old lawmaker has been criticized for refusing to work with other elected officials to help a district in dire need of roads, lights, and jobs.
State Sen. Michael Padilla and Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, both Democrats, say they support Cisneros and denounced Roybal Caballero as ineffective.
Roybal Caballero says her opponents want her to be a “puppet for the big developers.”
Santa Fe Opera Finds Additional Revenue Streams - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press
The Santa Fe Opera is collaborating with other venues to help build up its bottom line.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that since 2012, productions made in Santa Fe have traveled to New York, San Francisco, Canada, Spain, England and elsewhere.
The Santa Fe Opera also is increasingly opening its stage to non-operatic performances such as this season’s concerts by Ringo Starr and Bobby McFerrin.
This other revenue makes up 20% of the Santa Fe Opera’s $25 million operating budget and officials see it as a category that could grow.
The opera gets 40% of its income from ticket sales and another 40% comes from donations.
General Director Robert Meya acknowledges that even with record ticket revenue and donations this year, the growth potential in these traditional arenas is limited.