Headlines: APD Community Meetings Begin, State Workers Still Waiting For Back Pay...

Oct 22, 2014

Albuquerque Begins Meetings On Police Department  - The Associated Press

Albuquerque officials have kicked off a series of community meetings regarding the city Police Department in the wake of widespread calls for changes related to the use of force.

City officials on Tuesday held the first of 10 meetings. Mayor Richard Berry says the meetings will provide a way for Albuquerque to address both a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity.

The city has faced scrutiny for more than 40 police shootings since 2010, and the March shooting of a homeless man sparked widespread calls for reform of the Police Department. The U.S. Justice Department then released a scathing review of the agency's use of force.

The planned meetings will run through mid-February and focus on specific topics such as mental health and shootings involving officers.

New Mexico Still Processing Back Pay For Workers - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico officials continue to struggle to provide court-ordered back pay to thousands of current or retired state employees.

State Personnel Office attorney Randi Johnson says only 4,200 checks have been mailed to the approximately 10,000 workers owed back pay under a June 2013 court ruling.

Gov. Susana Martinez told the Santa Fe New Mexican last month that most checks would be mailed in September and others more difficult to calculate would be sent in early October.

Johnson says officials continue to calculate the amounts owed and have had difficulty mailing big patches of certified letters.

The back pay goes back to 2009 for many of the workers and results from then-Gov. Bill Richardson's administration's failure to follow union contracts on distributing money for raises provided by the Legislature.

Auditor Race Pits Senate Majority Whip Vs. Ex-Dem - The Associated Press

State Sen. Tim Keller is going head-to-head against Republican lawyer Robert Aragon in a state auditor race that has brought out "Breaking Bad" references, charges of unpaid taxes and a barking dog.

The Harvard Business School-educated Keller, currently the Senate majority whip, is promising to uncover an estimated $900 million of unspent public money and redirect it to state programs.

Aragon, a former Democrat state lawmaker from a storied New Mexico political family, is vowing to attack waste and examine state settlements.

Keller recently ran a "Breaking Bad"-themed TV ad, which faulted Aragon for not paying taxes.

Aragon says called the ad dishonest and said he has paid all liens against him. In a radio ad with a barking dog, he promised to be the voters' "pit bull" against fraud.

Zoo Boosts Security After Tasmanian Devil's Death - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

The killing of a rare Tasmanian devil on loan from Australia has prompted beefed-up security at a New Mexico zoo and a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo is adding more guards and surveillance cameras following the death of the animal named Jasper at the zoo last week.

An examination concluded that Jasper died from a fractured skull and brain trauma. A piece of asphalt was found nearby.

The animal was one of four Tasmanian devils loaned to the Albuquerque zoo by Healesville Sanctuary in Australia as part of an effort to start a breeding program for the endangered species.

A zoo booster group and a city anti-crime program are offering the $5,000 reward.

Officials To Brief Lawmakers On Ebola Preparedness - The Associated Press

State officials are to brief legislators on whether New Mexico is prepared to handle a potential case of Ebola or other public health emergency.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen of the Department of Health and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Gregory Myers are among the officials scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon at a legislative committee hearing.

Their appearance comes a few days after Gov. Susana Martinez directed the department to coordinate a plan with state and local government agencies and health care providers to ensure New Mexico is ready if a case of Ebola is diagnosed in the state.

The department says it has epidemiologists on call around the clock to answer questions from health care providers and provide guidance if a patient with Ebola symptoms seeks treatment.

New Mexico Rule Changing Fracking Water Reuse Eyed - The Associated Press and Hobbs News-Sun

State environmental regulators are considering a proposed rule that would allow the reuse of produced water in oilfield drilling operations.

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin told Hobbs News-Sun this week that the department is working with the Oil Conservation Commission on the new rule that could help cut fresh water consumption by industry.

The draft of that rule is expected sometime this month.

Martin says the changes New Mexico is looking to adopt are similar to those used in Texas, where produced water is already being reused in drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations.

John Tintera, president of the Texas Water Recycling Commission, met with New Mexico environmental regulators and industry leaders earlier this year to help map out the proposed rule change.

State On Track To Surpass FY2014 Oil, Gas Audits - The Associated Press

The State Land Office has collected more than $3 million in additional revenue from a Texas oil company following an audit of its operations in southeastern New Mexico.

Land Commissioner Ray Powell says the assessment of Apache Corp.'s production in Lea County turned up royalties going back to January 2009.

The recent audit is among the nearly 40 reviews done by the agency since the beginning of July. The agency has brought in an additional $4 million in revenue so far this fiscal year, putting it on track to collect more than it did the previous year.

Powell says the problems highlighted by the audits relate to bookkeeping errors and confusion over New Mexico's tax and royalty structure. He says the Land Office is exploring ways to simplify the process.