NM Land Commissioner Will Not Run For Congress, Navajo Sues Zuni Over Discrimination

Oct 2, 2017

New Mexico Land Commissioner Cancels Run For CongressThe Associated Press

A spokeswoman for New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says he has canceled his campaign for Congress.

State Land Office Spokeswoman Kristin Haase said Monday that Dunn has changed his mind and will not seek the GOP nomination, without providing a reason.

Dunn, a Republican, had been a prominent contender to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for governor. Dunn was elected in 2014 to lead an agency that oversees state trust lands and leases that help fund schools, universities and hospitals.

It was unclear whether Dunn would seek re-election as land commissioner next year.

The governor's race has set off a game of musical chairs in New Mexico politics as Pearce and Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of Albuquerque decline to seek re-election to Congress.

Navajo Teacher Sues Zuni Schools Over DiscriminationThe Associated Press & The Gallup Independent

A teaching is suing Zuni Public School District over claims the school district discriminated against her because she is Navajo.

The Gallup Independent reports Olivia Joe recently filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court over allegations she was treated differently than other teachers.

According to the lawsuit, the second- grade teacher was informed by family during a visit that a family member had died and the group began a traditional Navajo prayer. Court documents say another teacher and member of Zuni Pueblo interrupted the prayer and said it was a Zuni school.

The lawsuit alleges that employees can say Zuni traditional prayers in the school without harassment.

The Zuni Public School District denied the claims.

Joe is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Previous Audits Of New Mexico School Did Not Uncover FraudThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Annual audits did not uncover alleged fraud and embezzlement at a New Mexico charter school.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the alleged scheme was not detected until a vendor of La Promesa Early Learning Center called the Office of the State Auditor's confidential hotline in April to report a suspicious tax form.

For six years, the charter school's former assistant business manager allegedly diverted nearly half a million dollars from the school into her personal bank account and deposited about $177,000 worth of questionable checks.

State Auditor Tim Keller says the problems at La Promesa are part of a larger pattern.

Keller says the state needs to do a better job with the "overseeing of our education dollars to protect them from fraud, waste and abuse."

New Mexico Oil Producers Concerned About Permit BacklogThe Associated Press

The cost of drilling for oil or natural gas on public and tribal land went up slightly nationwide thanks to a fee hike that took effect over the weekend, but New Mexico producers are more worried about a continued backlog in the processing of permits by the Bureau of Land Management.

The industry says the delays are costing New Mexico and the federal government taxes and royalties.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association estimates nearly $1.5 million in federal royalties and another $831,000 in state severance taxes are deferred daily due to administrative issues and that the delay of any revenue is critical as state lawmakers discuss budget priorities for the coming fiscal year.

The Bureau of Land Management earlier this year began shifting resources to tackle the backlog.

Union For 430 Sandia Labs Employees Authorizes A StrikeAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The union that represents 430 Sandia National Laboratories employees has voted to authorize them to go on strike.

A lab spokeswoman tells the Albuquerque Journal that the Metal Trades Council rejected Sandia's "last, best and final offer" during contract negotiations Friday night.

However, a strike authorization doesn't mean a strike is imminent and the union hasn't notified the labs that its members will go on strike.

But an official with a union who supported the negotiations said employees do not plan to go to work Monday. Jim Price, who is director of government employees for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told the Journal the contract is not acceptable

Sandia officials say the final version of the three-year contract offered general wage increases and lump sum payments.

The Journal reports that Metal Trades Council went on strike in August 1999 for 13 days over pensions, job classification and pay issues.

Rio Rancho Roads Need Cleanup, Repairs Following Heavy Rain Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Many roads in Rio Rancho require repairs after being washed out, eroded or covered in sediment from runoff following heavy rain that drenched the Albuquerque suburb Thursday night.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that nearly 40 miles of roads in Rio Rancho need repairs, and officials say cleanup work will continue well into the coming week.

City spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia says crews are prioritizing roads based on damage and usage.

Navajo Nation Opens New Police Substation At Arizona CasinoGallup Independent, Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has opened a new police substation at the tribe's Twin Arrows casino and resort in northern Arizona.

The 15,000-square-foot building will provide emergency response services for the resort and Navajo communities in the area, including Leupp and Dilkon.

The Gallup Independent reports that tribe's gaming compact with Arizona mandated that the Twin Arrows casino have a police substation.

The building includes office space, living quarters for personnel, holding cells, training rooms and a garage for firetrucks.

Twin Arrows is about 25 miles east of Flagstaff, while Leupp is about 50 miles northeast of the casino resort.

The Navajo Nation Council approved $4.5 million for the substation in 2016l.

Attorneys: New Mexico Library Shooting Case Will Be LengthyEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

The defense attorney appointed to represent the New Mexico teenager accused of a deadly shooting inside a public library is certain any legal resolution will be a long time coming.

Assistant Public Defender Stephen Taylor says the case of 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett is huge and discovery alone could take months.

Taylor spoke with the Eastern New Mexico News after a district judge recently approved an order to seal surveillance video and audio from the Clovis-Carver Public Library as well as the teen's cellphone videos and footage from officers' body cameras.

The teen faces two counts of murder and numerous other charges stemming from the Aug. 28 shooting.

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes. It is identifying Jouett because of the seriousness of the crime and because authorities are seeking adult sanctions.

New Mexico Reduces Estimate For Missing TaxesAssociated Press

New Mexico's top insurance regulator says that an independent audit of unpaid insurance premium taxes shows far less money is owed to the state than previously thought.

State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini announced Friday that a preliminary summary of the audit shows potential underpayments to the state amount to a fraction of the $193 million previously estimated.

Franchini's office declined to provide specific dollar estimates for missing taxes under the audit by Atlanta-based Examination Resources. Agency spokeswoman Heather Widler says more information should be publicly available after documents are reviewed by the Office of the State Auditor.

The new audit examines premium tax filings from 30 companies since 2003. It is unclear how the audit addresses accusations by state prosecutors that a Presbyterian Healthcare Services subsidiary illegally avoided taxes.

Complaint: Albuquerque Mayor Hopeful, PAC Working TogetherAssociated Press

A new complaint says Democratic mayoral candidate Tim Keller and a PAC supporting him are illegally working together to get him elected.

The campaign of Wayne Johnson, a Keller opponent, said Friday that documents show Keller's campaign and ABQ Forward Together both paid $15,000 each to the same firm within 24 hours of each other. Johnson says the documents indicated "coordinated expenditures" and a violation of various city ordinances.

The Johnson campaign filed the complaint with the city clerk's office.

Keller campaign attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara said the accusation is completely false and a last-minute cheap shot in an attempt to distract from Johnson's alleged ethics violations.

Johnson and Keller are among the seven candidates running for Albuquerque mayor.

Keller also is facing a complaint that his publicly financed campaign is accepting "in-kind" cash donations.

Sandoval Sheriff's Deputy Fatally Strikes Woman With TruckAssociated Press

Police in New Mexico say a 68-year-old woman died after a Sandoval County Sheriff's deputy backed his truck into her and ran her over.

The incident happened on Thursday afternoon when the deputy was investigating a burglary alarm at a home. The deputy, who has not been identified, was called to another burglary alarm and got into his marked department truck. As he backed out of the house, he struck Linda Baragiola of Placitas and ran her over with the truck's back tire.

Baragiola died at the hospital.

New Mexico State Police say Baragiola was standing behind the deputy's truck and was possibly on her cell phone when she was struck.

An investigation is ongoing.

New Mexico Legislators Are Concerned About Spaceport's CostsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are questioning if more state funding is necessary for the commercial spaceport in the southern part of the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Thursday that members of the Legislative Finance Committee held a hearing about the future of the facility where they questioned Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks about the business plan.

Hicks says the facility has the ability to be a commercial hub and it has advantages over competing spaceports, but it requires government funding to operate.

Republican state Sen. Sander Rue says legislators are concerned about how much money it will take to make the spaceport fully operational and more self-sustaining.

While Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the spaceport, Space X, Up Aerospace and EXOS Aerospace have all used the facility.

Historic New Mexico Bridge To Be DecommissionedDaily Times, Associated Press

A historic bridge that spans the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico is slated to be decommissioned now that it has been deemed structurally deficient.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration held a meeting Wednesday to update community members on the status of the U.S. 64 San Juan Bridge Crossing Project.

T.Y. Lin International project manager Eric Froberg says the historic westbound bridge is scheduled to be decommissioned and possibly be used as a bridge for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Froberg says approximately 14,000 vehicles cross the bridges each day.

The project is still in the early phases of design, and holding the meeting was a way to get public input on the proposals.