School District Pays $14,000 In Public Records Suit, Rep. Torres Small Outraising GOP Opponents

Jul 31, 2019

New Mexico School District Settles Public Records LawsuitGallup Independent, Associated Press

A New Mexico school district has agreed to hand over nearly 12,000 pages after it was sued for the public records.

The Gallup Independent reported Tuesday that Gallup-McKinley County Schools reached a settlement with Teri Garcia and Stefanie Mortensen, agreeing to release the documents and pay $14,000 to them.

The parents of former Middle College High School students sued the district in July 2018 after the district sought to charge 50 cents per page.

The district argued the charge reflected the cost of reviewing the documents.

The two women asked for documents pertaining to a policy that excluded students outside the district's nine regular schools from participating in campus activities.

District Superintendent Mike Hyatt and school attorney Andrew Sanchez did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

New Mexico State Senate Leader Runs For Re-ElectionAssociated Press

New Mexico's top-ranked state senator has announced she'll run for re-election against two Democratic primary challengers.

Senate President Mary Kay Papen on Wednesday announced her bid for a fifth term representing a district that stretches from the city of Las Cruces across farming communities of the Mesquite Valley to the U.S. border with Mexico.

The 87-year-old lawmaker is highlighting her legislative achievements in shoring up services for mental health patients. She is competing for the nomination with green business advocate Carrie Hamblen and Tracy Perry, a service provider for the developmentally disabled.

The primary showdown highlights a divide between fiscally conservative Democrats such as Papen and more progressive currents within the party. Papen voted this year against a bill to repeal the state's dormant ban on most abortion procedures.

2 Men Indicted For 2017 Killing Of Albuquerque Homeless ManAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Two men have been indicted for the 2017 killing of an Albuquerque homeless man who police say was set on fire.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a grand jury on Friday indicted 48-year-old Randy Hilliard and 47-year-old Billy Harper on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson in connection with the death of Leo Molzhon.

Witnesses told officers two men doused the 50-year-old Molzhon in gasoline and set him on fire in June 2017. Police found Molzhon and a mattress he had been lying on engulfed in flames underneath Interstate 40 in Albuquerque.

Some of Molzhon's friends previously told the Journal he was originally from Minnesota and had been living on the streets for more than a year.

It has not known if Hilliard or Harper had attorneys.

21-Year Veteran Of Arizona DPS Is New Police Chief In HobbsAssociated Press

A 21-year veteran of the Arizona Department of Public Safety is the new police chief in Hobbs.

City officials announced Wednesday that they offered the job to John Ortolano and he accepted.

Ortolano was one of three finalists for the job.

Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall retired in February after 6 1/2 years as the city's 24th police chief in the department's 90-year history.

Ortolano had been a captain with the DPS and served in the Criminal Investigations Division and Gang Enforcement Bureau.

The multi-agency State Gang Task Force serves the Phoenix metropolitan area and deters criminal gang activity.

Ortolano is a Navy veteran, served in the U.S. Army National Guard as a combat medical specialist and earned a master's degree in criminal justice from American Military University.

Native American Congresswoman Endorses Elizabeth Warren – Associated Press

One of two Native American women in Congress has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland announced her endorsement in social media posts that describe Warren as a great friend and partner on policies that affect Indian Country.

On Instagram, a photo of Haaland and Warren accompanies praise for the senator's efforts related to working families, student loan debt and missing and murdered indigenous women.

Warren has been criticized for claiming Native American identity early in her career and apologized recently to the Cherokee Nation for releasing DNA test results as evidence she had Native American ancestry, albeit at least six generations back.

Haaland is a tribal member of Laguna Pueblo and represents a district centered in Albuquerque.

Congresswoman Torres Small Still Outraising GOP Opponents- Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small continues to outraise her Republican opponents in her re-election bid for a key Congressional seat in southern New Mexico.

Federal election records show the Las Cruces Democrat pulled in $1,091,386 during her first six months in office after winning the seat in November. Records show she had around $1 million cash on hand.

Republican Yvette Herrell, who lost to Torres Small last year and is seeking a rematch, raised $312,000 during the same period and reported having $307,000 cash on hand.

But to win the GOP nomination Herrell will have to go through Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys who is also running. Records show Mathys reported raising $180,000 and had around $160,000 cash on hand

No other candidates have declared for the seat.

Santa Fe Startup Gets $1M Grant For Virtual Reality Tech- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe startup has received a $1 million federal Small Business Innovation Research grant to complete its virtual reality data visualization technology.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports SciVista is developing a product called Summit VR — a platform to add three-dimensional data into virtual reality.

Summit VR is being developed in partnership with Intel, Kitware, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and others.

SciVista, a builder of data visualization programs, was established in 2018 and is a spinoff from Woodruff Scientific, a Santa Fe research and development company focused on electromagnets.

Mom Of Slain Navajo Girl Urges Tribes To Use Amber Alerts- Associated Press

The mother of a Navajo girl who was kidnapped and killed in 2016 urged tribal officials and children's advocates Tuesday to take advantage of tools and funding under a law that expands access to the nation's Amber Alert system.

Pamela Foster spoke during a training at Isleta Pueblo, for tribes seeking to implement the alert system. Despite a 2007 pilot project, it was not in place on the Navajo Nation when her daughter Ashlynne Mike was abducted near Shiprock. Her disappearance was a catalyst for the state to fully implement Amber Alerts.

A federal law signed last year expanded the child abduction alert system to tribal land, giving tribes direct access to federal grants that law enforcement agencies use for Amber Alert systems.

The law was named in memory of Ashlynne, whose memory has been evoked during Congressional hearings in Washington and marches in tribal communities that aim to shed light on the disappearances of Native American women and girls.

Governor Aims To Up Oversight Of Boarding Homes – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration is working on regulations to increase oversight of boarding homes for people with mental illnesses.

Tuesday, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the administration is aiming to require licenses and periodic inspections of the homes.

The governor says the rules also would set standards for fire safety, staffing levels, crowding and bathroom facilities.

Grisham says the state has about 100 boarding homes that are unregulated.

Most of the facilities are near Las Vegas where the only state psychiatric hospital is located.

State Department of Health spokesman David Morgan says the rules aim to ensure residents of the homes have "safe and supported" living conditions.

He says they aim to release the proposed rules in the coming weeks.