NM Gets $3.7M To Tighten Election Cyber Security, NM Reaches Legal Settlement On Driving Credentials

Aug 21, 2018

New Mexico Gets $3.7M To Tighten Election Cyber Security- Associated Press

New Mexico is receiving $3.7 million dollars from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tighten cyber security, safeguard voter registration rolls and otherwise improve voting systems.

The commission on Tuesday released a report showing how states plan to spend $380 million dollars allocated by Congress to strengthen voting systems amid threats from Russia and others.

New Mexico is among five states that did not provide the federal government with a detailed narrative for its grant spending.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission says New Mexico plans to devote more than $2 million dollars to tighten cyber security, $500,000 dollars to voter registration efforts and $750,000 dollars to shoring up voting equipment.

The New Mexico Secretary of State's Office could not be reached immediately for comment. The federal government expects New Mexico to spend $185,000 of its own funds.

Superintendent Accuses Top Education Official Of Retaliation- Associated Press

The superintendent for Santa Fe schools is speaking out against a top official from the state education department who singled out her school district in a report.

An annual report by the Public Education Department shows that more than half of Santa Fe schools received a D or F grade.

The Secretary-designate for the department Christopher Ruszkowski said in the report that when districts fare poorly, "you have to look at the superintendent."

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia believes Ruszkowski's comments are a form of retaliation for her support of a lawsuit against the state education department.

When asked for comment on the accusations, Ruszkowski said in a statement that the Santa Fe school district should ask itself why the similarly sized Gadsen Independent School District is doing better.

New Mexico Revokes License Of A Cannabis Dispensary- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A medical cannabis producer with dispensaries in Las Cruces and Albuquerque becomes the first in New Mexico to have its license revoked.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports State Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher last week revoked the license of Mother Earth Herbs, effective March 31.

Gallagher also permanently banned the company's president and executive director, Vivian Moore, from working in any capacity for any medical cannabis licensee.

Mother Earth Herbs and Moore were accused of submitting falsified audits to the Health Department.

Moore has denied falsifying the audits and said in an email Monday that, "We will continue to fight the false allegations made against me and Mother Earth Herbs, Inc. through the courts." Mother Earth Herbs and Moore can challenge Gallagher's actions in state District Court.

New Mexico Reaches Legal Settlement On Driving Credentials- Associated Press

Civil rights groups say a new court-approved settlement will help end a simmering dispute over New Mexico's two-tiered system of driving credentials by easing some identification requirements and providing a clear appeals process when applications are refused.

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Somos Un Pueblo Unido on Tuesday announced a settlement with the state that changes identification requirements for people seeking a driving authorization card or alternative ID card.

The settlement does not affect requirements for state driver's licenses that meet tougher federal security rules.

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Legal Director Sovereign Hager says state motor vehicle offices will have to provide a reason to applicants who are denied driving authorization cards or alternative ID cards and inform them of the appeals process.

Univ. Of New Mexico Paid $600K In 'Fetal Tissue' Legal Bills - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico racked up more than $600,000 in legal bills as it navigated a special congressional committee's investigation into how it procured fetal tissue for research.

The Albuquerque Journal reports university officials say the expenses were necessary to protect the university.

Documents obtained through a public records request showed the school used the Chicago-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery for what the invoices call the "fetal tissue inquiry."

In 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to convene the "select investigative panel" to probe fetal tissue transfers and related matters. The Republican-led committee's $1.5 million investigation ultimately alleged that UNM violated state law.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced this year he found the school did not break the law.

EPA Waits To Release Comments On Colorado Mine Cleanup PlanDurango Herald, Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it won't release public comments on its interim cleanup plan for southwestern Colorado mines until it has reached a final decision on the plan.

The Durango Herald reported the EPA's position Sunday.

Last June, the EPA outlined the next steps it plans to take to protect rivers from toxic metals flowing out of the Gold King Mine and other sites while it comes up with a longer-term solution.

EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Peterson said the agency usually doesn't release public comments on this type of plan until a decision is reached.

The EPA inadvertently triggered a spill from the Gold King Mine in 2015, tainting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The agency designated the Gold King Mine and 47 other sites a Superfund district in 2016.

Albuquerque Makes Progress On Rape Kit BacklogAssociated Press

New Mexico's most populous city has made some progress to clear its backlog of untested rape kits as state public safety officials are close to erasing their own backlog.

An update from a Legislative Finance Committee shows the city of Albuquerque had tested 1,050 of over 4,543 unprocessed sexual assault evidence kits as of the end of July.

The city has plans to clear the backlog by 2020.

A review in 2015 and 2016 by the Office of the State Auditor found there were 5,440 untested kits across the state, with nearly 75 percent of those in Albuquerque. That total gave New Mexico the unwelcome distinction of having more untested kits per capita than any other state.

Legislative analysts say the state Department of Public Safety is within 100 kits of completing its backlog of 1,388.

New Mexico GOP Governor Hopeful Wants Toll Roads For Oil Traffic - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

New Mexico Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Pearce is calling for a system of toll roads in southeastern New Mexico to serve booming oilfield and other commercial traffic.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Pearce unveiled last week a plan that would be financed by private companies and without taxpayer dollars. Its aim would help traffic coming from the Delaware Basin, an oval-shaped shale rock formation that protrudes from southwest Texas northward into New Mexico's Eddy and Lea counties.

Modern drilling technologies have turned that zone into one of the most-productive oil and gas plays in the world. But traffic from heavy oil trucks has damaged New Mexico roads.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham, says the toll plan is out of touch with struggling state residents.

New Mexico Candidates Clash On Labor, Business Reforms - Associated Press

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of New Mexico are offering contrasting visions for changing the state's labor and business climate at a public forum.

Republican Congressman Steve Pearce said Monday that businesses are showing an interest in expanding to counties in New Mexico that want to limit compulsory union fees by ordinance. Pearce praised right-to-work reforms as a way to give workers greater choice.

Rival Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, described right-to-work reform as a divisive, partisan issue that doesn't address the state's economic challenges.

New Mexico's Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, has consistently defeated proposals to outlaw compulsory fees for workers who decide not to belong to a union.

The winner of the November gubernatorial election will succeed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Ex-New Mexico Senator Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement, Perjury - Associated Press

A former New Mexico state senator who's already serving a prison sentence for public corruption convictions has pleaded guilty to two felony counts each of embezzlement and perjury.

State prosecutors say Phil Griego entered the pleas Monday to avoid another trial.

Griego was sentenced to an additional year of prison, to be served consecutive to his current sentence.

He began serving an 18-month prison term in March after being convicted by a jury of fraud, bribery and other charges stemming from allegations that he misused his position to profit from a real estate deal.

A judge waived all but 18 months of a 12-year sentence.

The 70-year-old Griego is currently incarcerated at a state prison in Los Lunas that has special units for elderly inmates and those in poor health.

Lawsuit Against Ex-Hobbs Catholic Priest Dropped - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Attorneys have dropped a lawsuit against a former New Mexico priest accused of sexually abusing an adult male parishioner.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports attorneys for the alleged victim moved last week to dismiss a lawsuit against former Hobbs St. Helena Catholic Church priest Ricardo Bauza after criminal charges against him were dropped.

But a lawsuit against the Diocese of Las Cruces and the Hobbs church remains. It says the diocese facilitated sexual battery and assisted Bauza in evading authorities.

Bauza's attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, say the allegations against their client "had no credibility" and that the lawsuit was filed by a quote "troubled and misguided man."

Deacon Jim Winder, vice chancellor for the diocese, says Bauza is still a priest but is not assigned in the diocese.

Sheriff's Office Says Jail Officer Accused Of Raping Inmate- Associated Press

Bernalillo County authorities say a male Metropolitan Detention Center officer is accused of raping a female jail inmate.

The Sheriff's Office says Officer Johnny Reveles was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual penetration after the inmate said during a court appearance that Reveles raped her Monday while in the shower.

The office says the arrest was based on evidence from statements made by the victim and from evidence obtained from an interview with Reveles.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Reveles who could comment on the allegations.

Shiprock Man Gets 13 Years In Prison In Stabbing Death - Associated Press

A Shiprock man who pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing a woman in his home on the Navajo Nation is going to prison.

A federal judge in New Mexico sentenced 57-year-old Jerry Johnson Jr. to more than 13 years behind bars Monday, followed by five years of supervised release. He had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a June 2017 killing in northwestern New Mexico. Court documents do not identify the woman.

The case was prosecuted under a pilot program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. It trains tribal prosecutors in federal law to take on cases that involve violence against Native American women.

New Mexico Officer Gets Probation For Kicking Inmate - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A New Mexico corrections officer has pleaded no contest for punching and kicking an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

KRQE-TV reports Christopher Facey was sentenced Monday to supervised probation for one year in connection with roughing up an inmate in 2016.

Prosecutors say Facey was caught on camera punching and kicking one of the male inmates.

According to Facey's attorney, that inmate had repeatedly yelled racial slurs at Facey, who is black, and taunted him about his race on at least 15 separate occasions.

Officials say the inmate received a $70,000 settlement from Bernalillo County.