Friday News Roundup: Judge Says State Can Keep Audit Secret

Nov 22, 2013

Judge Says State Can Keep Audit Secret - Associated Press

A state district judge in Las Cruces has ruled the state can keep secret the audit that prompted it to freeze payments to substance abuse and mental health providers.

State District Judge Douglas Driggers rejected a request by the Las Cruces Sun-News and New Mexico In Depth to order the Human Services Department to release the audit under state open records laws.

The HSD claims the audit found overbilling and questionable business practices, so it cut funding to 14 of the nonprofits and brought in Arizona firms to take over a dozen of them.

Attorney General Gary King's office, which is investigating the allegations, has also declined to release most of the audit because it contends the materials are law enforcement records protected from disclosure under the open records law.

Explosive Devices Prompt Evacuation In Albuquerque - Associated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department's bomb squad has destroyed two explosive devices that were found outside a state probation and parole office.

The suspicious items were spotted Thursday outside the building along Monte Vista Blvd.

Police spokeswoman Officer Tasia Martinez says the building was evacuated as the bomb squad inspected the two pipe bombs. They were eventually destroyed and the perimeter around the area was lifted.

Martinez says the case will be passed on to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Tourism Launches Winter 'NM True' Ads - Associated Press

As the first winter storm of the season bears down on New Mexico, tourism officials are putting a frosty twist on their 'New Mexico True' campaign.

Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says the department has launched its first ever winter-specific ad campaign to tout the state's ski resorts and other winter adventures.

Jacobson says cable ads are appearing in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Phoenix. And print ads have appeared in AFAR, Outside Magazine and Texas Monthly.

The department also has a partnership with Southwest Airlines. Print ads will appear every month in Southwest's in-flight magazine, along with a targeted digital and email component.

The department is spending $800,000 on the winter campaign.

NM County, Navajo Nation Added To Declaration - Associated Press

One New Mexico county and the Navajo Nation have been added to a federal disaster declaration that stemmed from severe storms and flooding this past summer.

Federal officials say Sierra County and the Navajo Nation are now eligible to apply for reimbursements under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance Grant Program.

The grants are designed to cover expenses incurred while taking emergency measures to protect lives and property as well as the cleanup of downed trees, power poles and other debris.

The eligible expenses also include repairs to roads, bridges and public utilities.

Officials say damage assessments are underway in counties that are not covered by the declaration. Additional counties may be added at a later date.

Governor To Seek $2M Extra For Water Research - Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez proposes to significantly increase state funding for a university research institute that focuses on New Mexico's water problems.

The governor announced Thursday she'll ask the Legislature next year for an additional $2 million for the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, which is based at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

The Legislature and governor agreed to provide the research center with nearly $215,000 this year from the state's main budget account. However, the institute also receives federal money and other state funds for an overall budget of nearly $1.3 million.

The governor's office said the institute's research has included issues such as desalination, watershed management, water quality and water supplies for communities.