NM AG To Review Church Personnel Files, Santa Fe School Board Rejects Armed School Guards Proposal

Sep 5, 2018

New Mexico AG Seeks To Review Church Personnel Files- Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is asking Roman Catholic church officials around the state to review records for any materials that may be related to past or present allegations of sexual abuse.

The Diocese of Las Cruces confirmed Wednesday it received a letter from the attorney general's office requesting to review personnel files. The diocese says it will cooperate.

Bishop Oscar Cantú says having an independent authority review the files can foster greater confidence in the transparency and accountability of the diocese.

The attorney general also sent letters to the archdiocese of Santa Fe and the diocese of Gallup.

The review follows a recent grand jury report that said more than 300 Catholic priests abused at least 1,000 children over the past seven decades in Pennsylvania, and senior figures in the church hierarchy systematically covered up complaints.

Santa Fe School Board Rejects Armed School Guards Proposal- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe school board members have turned down the school board president's proposal to hire armed officers for the district's two high schools this year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports school board President Steven Carrillo proposed bringing on armed officers known as school resource officers to protect students against shooters on campus.

During Tuesday's board meeting, the four other board members voted against holding a special study session to discuss the issue.

Board member Maureen Cashmon cited previous concerns that hiring armed officers only for the high schools is unfair to students at middle and elementary schools.

Board member Kate Noble agreed with Cashmon, adding that she didn't think the community supports the idea.

Several board members expressed an interest in counselors for students.

Prosecutors Say 20-Year-Old Defendant Killed 13-Year-Old Boy- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Prosecutors say they now believe a 13-year-old boy found in a shallow grave in Nambé was killed by the son of his mother's boyfriend.

The Albuquerque Journal reports court documents accuse 20-year-old Jordan Nuñez of torturing Jeremiah Valencia daily with a homemade spear or a shock collar.

Prosecutors plan to argue at a hearing Wednesday that Nuñez and the boy's mother, 36-year-old Tracy Ann Peña, be held until trial.

Both are charged in Santa Fe District County Court with child abuse resulting in death and evidence tampering.

Authorities initially suspected Nuñez's father, 42-year-old Thomas Ferguson, as the one who fatally beat the boy. Ferguson was also charged but he died by suicide in jail in April.

Defense attorney Mark Earnest says any abuse by Nuñez was under pressure from Ferguson.

Rate Decreases Coming To New Mexico Health ExchangeAssociated Press

Average rates for purchasing health insurance in 2019 are stabilizing on New Mexico's subsidized health care exchange, in a dramatic shift from choices a year ago.

The New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance announced Tuesday that average insurance premiums for consumers will decrease by 1 percent among four health care providers on the state exchange.

Agency spokeswoman Heather Widler says many consumers are likely to find financial relief after several years of steep premium increases.

Premiums for mid-level insurance coverage in 2018 increased by an average of more than 35 percent from the previous year, amid Republican attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly 50,000 residents are enrolled through the state's health exchange portal, known as beWellnm. About 80 percent of those people of receive subsidies.

Detention Hearing Delayed For New Mexico Compound Residents- Associated Press

A judge has pushed back a detention hearing for five former residents of a compound in New Mexico who are facing federal firearms-related charges.

Wednesday's decision came after public defenders requested more time to prepare. The defendants will remain in custody pending the Sept. 12 hearing.

The group was initially arrested last month in a raid of the compound near the Colorado border. Local authorities were searching for a missing boy, whose body was found days later in a tunnel on the property.

The federal charges stem from allegations against Jany Leveille. She's charged with illegally possessing firearms and ammunition linked to her unlawful immigration status. The other defendants are accused of assisting her.

State prosecutors say they intend to pursue charges against Leveille and partner Siraj Wahhaj related to the boy's death.

New Mexico Compound Residents Appear In CourtAssociated Press

Five former residents of a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico where a 3-year-old boy's body was found last month have made their first appearance in federal court on firearms-related charges.

Tuesday's court hearing in Albuquerque focused on allegations against Jany Leveille of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition linked to her unlawful immigration status and conspiracy accusations against the four other defendants.

The judge scheduled a detention hearing for Leveille and the others on Wednesday.

Public defenders are expected to be appointed soon for all five defendants.

State prosecutors also have said they plan to seek indictments in connection with the death of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj's son and living conditions at the compound where 11 children were found living in filth.

New Mexico Has A Plan For Re-Establishing Bighorn SheepAssociated Press

Wildlife managers are considering a proposal to re-establish desert bighorn sheep in another mountain range in southern New Mexico.

The plan calls for translocating sheep in the Sacramento Mountains in the fall. The state Department of Game and Fish is seeking public comment on the proposal and has scheduled a public meeting Sept. 19 in Alamogordo.

The agency says the species has been absent from the Sacramento Mountains for nearly a century.

Desert bighorn sheep were placed on New Mexico's endangered species list in 1980. Numerous agencies, private landowners, sportsmen's groups and others worked for three decades to recover the species and it was removed from the list in 2011.

Department estimates put the population at roughly 1,000 to 1,200 statewide.

Survey Finds Albuquerque Special Ed Teachers Face 'Low Morale'Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A new survey shows special education teachers and staff at New Mexico's largest school district feel they are undervalued and overworked with "very low" morale.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a 73-page survey report commissioned by Albuquerque Public Schools and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation union found that nearly half of educators don't feel the district's special education department is effectively managed.

According to the survey, which was conducted in June and July, only about two-fifths of special ed teachers and staff would recommend the district as a good place to work.

The report also says many special education educators see their workload as too much.

Albuquerque Superintendent Raquel Reedy says the union and the district are putting together a committee made up of special education staff to help improve morale.

New Mexico Supreme Court To Hear Voting CaseAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in the fight over the secretary of state's decision to reinstate straight-party voting ahead of the upcoming general election.

The court issued an order Tuesday, setting a hearing for Sept. 12 in Santa Fe.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is facing criticism after she announced last week she was formatting the ballots to allow voting in which a slate of major party candidates can be chosen all at one time.

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat who is running for re-election, has argued that state statute gives her the authority to format the ballots.

Critics say there is no provision in state law that provides for straight-party voting and that the move was intended to give Democrats an advantage.

Despite Past Reforms, Native Women Face High Rates Of Crime - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A wave of legal reforms in the past decade aimed at protecting Native American women from crime has proven limited.

Statistics showing high rates of victimization among Native American women prompted Congress to close legal loopholes that had prevented tribes from prosecuting many of those who harm them.

Lawmakers also passed laws to improve data collection and increase funding for training of tribal police.

Years later, a federal report found those data collection and reporting efforts are still in development, and funding for training remains limited.

Many tribes have not been able to take advantage of various reforms because of costly mandates.

Now, advocates are pushing for more changes as the disappearances of Native American and Alaska Native women and girls gain attention.

Postal Union Says Albuquerque Offices In ShamblesSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Members of the union that represents U.S. Postal Service workers in Albuquerque say the postal facilities in New Mexico's largest city are in shambles, without enough employees to keep offices clean or ensure mail arrives in post office boxes on time.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports union representatives blame staffing cuts and a lack of capital improvements, saying the Arizona district that oversees New Mexico's operations gives short shrift to its neighbor.

Dan Huerta of the American Postal Workers Union Local 380 says New Mexico is getting nothing and that residents are being disrespected.

Union members reported mail has been delivered late, the offices are dingy, and a rat once scampered across the counter.

Regional Postal Service spokesman Rod Spurgeon called the safety of postal facilities paramount, saying he wasn't aware of any unaddressed maintenance issues.

Navajo Presidential Hopeful Picks New VPAssociated Press

A Navajo presidential candidate has selected a new running mate after finding out his previous pick was ineligible.

Joe Shirley Jr. chose Buu Van Nygren, a 31-year-old with a background in construction management from the Utah portion of the reservation.

Shirley announced earlier Tuesday that Peter Deswood III would join his ticket. But the tribe's election office says Deswood isn't a registered voter and, therefore, is ineligible to be a vice presidential candidate.

Nygren has a bachelor's degree in construction management and a master's in business administration from Arizona State University. Nygren works for a national construction company as an operations trainer.

Shirley will face Jonathan Nez in the Nov. 6 general election.

Nez chose Myron Lizer, who runs hardware stores on the reservation, as his running mate.