Embezzlement Case Moves Forward, University Of New Mexico Project Works To Save Zuni Language

Nov 3, 2018

Embezzlement Case Moves Forward Against Ex-Tax Official– Associated Press

A judge has found sufficient evidence for a trial to take place against New Mexico's former top-ranked taxation official on charges including embezzlement.

New Mexico Attorney General's Office spokesman David Carl said Friday that a judge ordered a trial to go forward against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla on felony charges of embezzlement and using her position in government for personal gain. 

The judge also upheld several misdemeanor charges linked to state ethics laws after five days of testimony from witnesses.

Defense attorney Paul Kennedy declined to comment on the proceedings. Padilla has not entered a plea.

Padilla was the state's top tax official for five years under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She resigned in 2016 after a law enforcement raid on tax department offices.

New Mexico Decision Provides Guidance On Jury Deliberations – Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says a jury must first acquit a defendant of a criminal charge before reaching a verdict on a less serious offense.

The decision Thursday clarifies how juries are to deliberate in certain cases where jurors are deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict on a criminal charge.

The decision allows Kelson Lewis of Albuquerque to be retried on a felony child sex charge.

Battery was considered a lesser offense against Lewis included in the greater charge of criminal sexual contact with a minor.

A trial judge declared a mistrial in 2015 on the felony child sex crime, and Lewis appealed the judge's decision to allow a new trial on the charge.

Lewis' appeal argued that a retrial would violate the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

University Of New Mexico Project Works To Save Zuni Language – Associated Press

The University of New Mexico Libraries is working to preserve the Zuni language as part of a new digital initiative.

The school recently announced it has digitized books and posters published by Zuni Pueblo's bilingual education department.

Arin Peywa, a student and a member of Zuni Pueblo, says the new collection will be a great tool for those who use the Zuni language and who want to keep it alive for future generations.

She says some of the materials already added to the collection are quite sensitive to the Zuni culture and only fluent Zuni language speakers will be able to read them.

Exhibit To Honor Latino US Medal Of Honor Recipients – Associated Press

A new exhibit recognizing the six Hispanic Congressional Medal of Honor recipients with New Mexico connections is set to open.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center on Thursday will hold an opening reception at the History and Literary Arts building to kick off the tribute to the Latinos who have received the highest honor that the U.S. government bestows for acts of valor and heroism.

The exhibition of will feature photographs and narratives.

The tribute honors World War II veterans Private Joseph Martínez, Private José Valdez and Master Sgt. Alejandro Ruíz. It also honors Vietnam War veterans Daniel Fernandez and Louis Rocco, and Leroy Petry of Operation Enduring Freedom.

New Mexico's Medical Pot Plant Limit Is Arbitrary – Associated Press

In a big win for medical marijuana producers in New Mexico, a district judge says a state-imposed limit on the number of plants they can grow as part of their licensed operations is arbitrary.

Judge David Thomson in a ruling issued Friday strikes down the Health Department's 450-plant limit on producers.

The ruling sets a deadline for the state to study the issue and establish a new plant count that compiles with legislative mandates that guide New Mexico's medical marijuana program.

It wasn't immediately clear if the state would appeal.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit that alleged the agency wasn't fulfilling its obligations to ensure an adequate supply of medical marijuana.

There have long been concerns about shortages as the population of licensed patients has grown exponentially. As of September, there were nearly 59,000 active patients.

New Mexico Commission Rejects Community Solar Project – Associated Press

Las Cruces Sun-News

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has rejected a proposal to build a community solar project in Dona Ana County.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the commission voted Wednesday to ax the El Paso Electric proposal.

The commission approved a motion from Santa Fe-based renewable energy advocacy group New Energy Economy, an intervener in the case, to reject the proposal.

El Paso Electric spokesman George De La Torre says the company has no definite plans to submit a new proposal to the commission.

Opponents of the project claim that solar energy produced by El Paso Electric's proposed project would have been too costly, while supporters argued that the project would have provided low-income county residents access to community solar.

The city of Las Cruces opposed the project.

New Mexico Treasurer Faces Challenge From Political Newcomer – Associated Press

The state treasurer is the keeper of New Mexico's checkbook and is responsible for collecting and disbursing money and making deposits in investment accounts.

Incumbent Tim Eichenberg, a Democrat, is being challenged for the seat by Republican Arthur Castillo, a military veteran and a retired chief financial officer who worked in the state treasurer's office.

Castillo, who worked under a previous state treasurer, Democrat James Lewis, has said he would bring a fresh perspective to the office. 

A political newcomer, Castillo also has worked for the city of Albuquerque and the Bernalillo County Treasurer's Office.

Eichenberg is a former state senator and Bernalillo County treasurer. If re-elected, he plans to continue pushing for legislation that would make more transparent the investment fees paid by state agencies.

Los Alamos Lab Is Under New Management – Associated Press,The Santa Fe New Mexican

Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation's leading science and technology institutions, is under new management.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports new lab Director Thom Mason said in a statement, "We are committed to partnering with the National Nuclear Security Administration as an integral part of the National Security Enterprise."

Mason, a physicist with a long tenure overseeing Department of Energy nuclear facilities, also serves as president of Triad National Security LLC, a new collective led by the Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System and the University of California.

Triad was created solely to manage and operate the lab for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The new organization replaces Los Alamos National Security LLC. Under LANS, the lab racked up several security breaches, costly accidents and injuries to employees.