State Finances Showing Improvement, NM Democrats Mandate Harassment Training For Candidates

Nov 21, 2017

New Mexico State Finances Shows Signs Of ImprovementAssociated Press

New Mexico is rapidly rebuilding financial reserves that may help state government withstand future economic downturns.

Chief Economist Jon Clark of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee said Monday that the state's recently depleted savings have substantially grown.

He says the state had set aside an estimated $500 million as of the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

That is equal to about 8 percent of New Mexico's annual general fund spending obligations. A leading credit ratings agency recommends 10 percent reserves or greater to weather recessions.

The estimate signals a potentially rapid financial turnaround for state finances that were hit hard by a 2015 downturn in the oil sector.

The Albuquerque Journal reports this year’s revenue could reach nearly $6.1 billion. That’s $135 million more than an earlier estimate.

Spending was slashed at public colleges and several state agencies earlier this year to offset faltering tax revenues.

Council Approves Audit Of Court-Appointed Police Monitor KRQE-TV, Associated Press

The Albuquerque City Council has authorized an audit of the court-appointed monitor overseeing reform efforts for the city's police department.

The council on Monday approved a resolution to appropriate $25,000 to the city's Office of the Internal Audit to review the work by James Ginger.

The city hired Ginger in January 2015 after a federal judge appointed him as an independent monitor under the settlement reached between Albuquerque and the U.S. Department of Justice.

As of June 2017, the city has paid ginger more than $3 million.

City attorney Jessica Hernandez tells KRQE-TV that the audit will help the council determine a budget for Ginger moving forward.

The action comes a week after a federal judge dismissed the city's motion claiming that Ginger was biased against the police department.

Albuquerque Mayor Looking Outside For Interim Police ChiefAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Mayor-elect Tim Keller is looking outside the Albuquerque Police Department for a temporary police chief.

Keller said at a news conference Monday that he and his transition team are looking for an interim chief who knows the police officers but does not currently work there.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Keller wants to have someone picked by next week.

But the search for a full-time police chief will span nationwide.

Police Chief Gorden Eden is retiring Dec. 1.

The change in leadership comes as the police department has been undergoing an overhaul as part of a court-mandated agreement.

A Justice Department probe in 2014 found a pattern of excessive force.

New Mexico Democrats Mandate Harassment TrainingAssociated Press

The Democratic Party of New Mexico says its political candidates will need to complete sexual harassment prevention training to receive campaign support from the party in 2018 elections.

State Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg on Monday announced the training requirement in response to decade-old allegations of harassment of women filed against state Sen. Michael Padilla and incidents beyond New Mexico.

Padilla denies the prior accusations and is resisting calls to end his campaign for lieutenant governor by gubernatorial candidates including U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Ellenberg said training will cover situations of sexual violence, harassment, bullying and differential treatment of men and women. He says candidates who do not complete training will be denied access to the party's voter database as well as communications support.

New Mexico State Senator Seeks Advice On Political Future – Associated Press

New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla says he is seeking advice from friends, family and advisers on whether to continue his campaign for lieutenant governor.

The Democratic senator on Tuesday said that he has been attending previously scheduled campaign events.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged Padilla to end his campaign for lieutenant governor in light of decade-old allegations that he harassed women at a prior job.

Padilla has long denied the allegations. The city of Albuquerque ended up settling claims of a sexually hostile work environment linked to Padilla's work as a supervisor at an emergency call center.

Padilla is a rising star in the Democratic Party who has garnered national attention for tackling poverty.

New Mexico Supreme Court To Debate Textbooks, AgainAssociated Press

New Mexico's highest court will again debate whether the state should use public funds to pay for textbooks at private schools.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the parties in the legal battle filed briefs in the state Supreme Court in preparation for another round of arguments after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the state.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by two New Mexico parents seeking to stop the practice of using public money for private school textbooks, which they say is taking public funding away from public schools. The parents argued the practice also violated a provision in the state constitution that prohibits education funds from being used "for the support of any sectarian, denominational or private school, college or university."

Roswell Recruit Officer Accused Of Soliciting 2 Teenage Boys Associated Press

A Roswell Police officer-in-training has been arrested on charges he sent sexually explicit texts and images to two teenage boys.

Roswell police say 25-year-old Alonso Barrientos has been booked into the Chaves County Detention Center.

He was arrested last Friday on two counts of child solicitation by electronic communication device.

Detectives say they uncovered evidence on his personal cell of contact with the two juveniles. In one case, Barrientos allegedly presented himself as a 17-year-old.

Police say there may be more victims. Anyone with information is urged to contact detectives.

The recruit office, who worked for more than two years as a police service aide, was fired the day of his arrest.

Los Alamos School Board Faces Heat On Immigrant Policy – Los Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

The Los Alamos Public Schools board is facing heat over a proposal aimed at protecting immigrant students amid fears of increased federal immigration enforcement.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports opponents of the measure spoke out last week and said the policy change would result in more immigrants in the country illegally coming to Los Alamos schools.

Los Alamos resident Greg White told the board he had not heard of federal immigration agents coming onto school grounds and didn't see the point of the policy.

Board member Stephan Boerigter says the proposal was "political posturing."

The proposed resolution calls for school employees not to keep any records showing that information after admission.

Relieved New Mexico Superintendent Still Getting PaidLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A law firm says a northeastern New Mexico school superintendent relieved of her duties and locked in a legal battle with the school district is still being paid.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the law firm said last week Sheryl McNellis-Martinez is still earning an annual salary of $99,000 while her lawsuit is pending with Wagon Mound Public Schools.

McNellis-Martinez recently sued the school district of roughly 70 students after its board voted to invalidate a previous board vote on her contract because of an ineligible board member.

The Optic discovered former board member Tammie Avent was never a registered voter in Mora County, where the district is located. Another former board member, Debbie Coca, was told she was ineligible to serve because she lived in another town.