KUNM

State Auditor Investigating Financial Settlements, LANL Scientist Pleads Not Guilty To Lying Charge

May 28, 2019

New Mexico Auditor Cites Timing As Concern In SettlementsAssociated Press

The state auditor is investigating whether proper protocols were followed for state financial settlements to resolve workplace complaints by personnel including member of the former governor's security detail.

New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón on Tuesday announced the investigation of settlement payments of $1.7 million to resolve complaints by six individuals that ranged from wrongful termination to hostile workplace issues.

The settlements involving Public Safety Department personnel were authorized last year near the end of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.

Details have been sealed until 2023. Martinez denies involvement in the agreements.

Colón says the review aims to ensure financial settlements are made in the best interest of taxpayers.

He says the timing of settlements raises procedural concerns. Colón's office has subpoena authority.

Interior Secretary, Tribes Meet Amid Drilling FightAssociated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has met with tribal leaders who are supporting legislation to prevent drilling on land they consider sacred around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The meeting Tuesday at the centuries-old site in northwest New Mexico came at the urging of Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich amid a yearslong dispute over oil and gas development surrounding the park.

Legislation sponsored by Heinrich and other members of New Mexico's all-Democratic congressional delegation would halt new oil and natural gas lease sales on federal land within a 10-mile buffer zone around the park's ancient stone structures and avenues.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has previously said that many tribes want a greater area around Chaco protected from industrial incursions.

Oil developers say robust protections already are in place.

Impairment May Be Factor In Deadly Albuquerque Uber CrashAssociated Press

Albuquerque police are looking into whether alcohol was a factor in a collision that killed two Uber passengers.

Investigators say the crash occurred late Friday night near Alameda and the Pan American frontage road.

A Kia sedan hit a Ford Fusion that was in the process of making a left turn.

Police say the Ford was an Uber transporting two passengers.

Both passengers were killed.

Authorities have identified them as 35-year-old Robbie Gallegos and 33-year-old Kristina Martinez. Family members say the couple, who had been dating for several years, were on a date and had decided to use the ride-share service.

Police say both drivers were taken to the hospital in stable condition.

They say the Kia driver did show signs of impairment and had been driving at high speed.

Arizona Border Activist Going On Trial For Helping Migrants - By Anita Snow Associated Press

A border activist charged with helping a pair of migrants with water, food and lodging is set to go on trial in U.S. court in Arizona.

Defendant Scott Daniel Warren has argued that his spiritual values compel him to help all people in distress.

The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Tucson, with the 36-year-old Warren charged with harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor two Mexican men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally.

Thousands of migrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s when heightened enforcement pushed traffic into Arizona's scorching deserts.

Prosecutors say the two migrants aided by Warren were never in any real distress.

Group Vowing To Build Border Wall Puts Up New Mexico Segment - Associated Press

A leader with the group that's been raising funds to build a southern border wall on its own says they erected less than a mile of wall on private land in New Mexico over Memorial Day weekend.

Dustin Stockton, co-founder of the nonprofit WeBuildtheWall Inc., told The Associated Press Monday that they spent about 10 days moving dirt before starting construction Friday. He says the wall segment in Sunland Park is "mostly up" and should be completed by the end of the week.

Stockton, whose group has raised about $22 million, says they don't have a final tally yet on the cost, but he expects it'll be somewhere between $6 million and $10 million. He says the site's steep incline added to the cost.

The government's cost for the new walls its building is about $22 million a mile.

US Scientist Pleads Not Guilty To Lying ChargeAssociated Press

A scientist for a U.S. laboratory in New Mexico has pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied about contacts with a state-run program in China that seeks to draw foreign-educated talent.

Turab Lookman, of Santa Fe, entered the plea Tuesday before a judge ruled that he could be released on a $50,000 secured bond with his family's home as collateral. His travel will be restricted to the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas as he awaits trial on charges of making false statements while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The facility is tasked with ensuring the safety of the nation's nuclear stockpile and reducing weapons threats.

Prosecutors say Lookman had lied three times about being recruited by China's Thousand Talents Program and applying to participate in work there.

US Lab Scientist Charged With Lying About China Contact - Associated Press

A scientist for a U.S. laboratory in New Mexico is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday on accusations he lied about contacts with a state-run program in China that seeks to draw foreign-educated talent.

Prosecutors say 67-year-old Turab Lookman, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, had been asked on an employment questionnaire and by officials if he had been recruited by China's Thousand Talents Program or applied to work there. He's accused in an indictment filed last week of falsely stating that he hadn't.

Federal prosecutors say the China program had been established to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property.

Court records did not yet list an attorney for Lookman. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Democratic-Led States Divided Over Approach On Abortion - By Jennifer Mcdermott And David A. Lieb Associated Press

Abortion opponents in Republican-led legislatures have had a highly successful year, passing measures that would ban or significantly limit abortions beginning early in a person's pregnancy. So what about the states controlled politically by Democrats?

The answer is mixed and reflects how the abortion debate has not played out neatly in the Democratic Party, much to the disappointment of abortion-rights supporters.

While some Democratic-led states are moving forward with abortion protections, similar bills have stalled in others, including New Mexico,  Rhode Island and Hawaii.

Like their Republican counterparts, some Democratic lawmakers cite religious objections to explain their votes against codifying access to abortion.

A bill to remove a dormant criminal ban on abortion in New Mexico was voted down in March by the state Senate, which is led by Democrats, despite a push to shore up abortion rights by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Endangered Mexican Wolves Blamed For More Livestock Kills - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Mexican gray wolves have been blamed for killing nearly as many cows and calves in the first four months of 2019 as they did all of last year.

Federal wildlife managers have documented 88 livestock kills from January through April in New Mexico and Arizona. Nearly 100 were reported for all of 2018.

The Associated Press has found that this year is on pace to become the deadliest for livestock since the endangered predators were first reintroduced in 1998.

The decades-long effort to return the wolves to their historic range has been complicated by poaching and continued conflicts with livestock.

Ranchers and some rural residents see the reintroduction program as a threat to their way of life, but environmentalists contend more can be done to discourage wolves from targeting livestock.

Coming Home: Navajo To Get Treaty That Ended Imprisonment - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A 150-year-old document that allowed Navajos to return to their homeland in the Four Corners region where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet is destined for a permanent home at the tribe's museum.

Navajos had been imprisoned at a desolate tract of land in eastern New Mexico before signing a treaty with the U.S. government in 1868.

There are three known copies of the treaty, one of which had been in a Massachusetts home but was considered lost.

Clare "Kitty" Weaver is the great-grandniece of one of the negotiators who took a copy home. She says it had been mixed in with Samuel F. Tappan's papers and she only recently discovered its importance.

She reached an agreement last week to donate the treaty to the Navajo Nation. A tribal legislative committee is expected to vote Tuesday on accepting it.

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