State Seeks Energy Savings In Building Upgrades, Suit Contends Sexual Abuse By Corrections Officers

Apr 17, 2019

Lawsuit Contends Corrections Officers Sexually Abused InmateAssociated Press

An inmate has sued the New Mexico Corrections Department, saying two officers sexually abused her in 2017.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmate that the assaults occurred in a prison system and facility that have fostered "an environment rife with sexual abuse."

The lawsuit filed Tuesday also says that authorities retaliated against the inmate when she reported the abuse by revoking her phone privileges, placing her in solitary confinement and taking away a year of "good time."

The former officers accused in the lawsuit are Michael Martinez and Eluid Stan Arguello. They were charged with criminal sexual penetration.

Martinez pleaded guilty last year. A jury trial for Arguello is scheduled for July.

State officials did not immediately provide comment in response to the lawsuit Wednesday.

High-Profile Defense Lawyer In New Mexico Faces DWI ChargeAssociated Press

A high-profile defense lawyer who also served as a former prosecutor for U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico has been arrested on a drunken driving charge.

Court records show Robert Gorence was arrested late Saturday in Albuquerque after an officer spotted his vehicle swerving and going below the speed limit on Interstate 25.

Officer Keith Curry wrote the 61-year-old Gorence had bloodshot and watery eyes and had an odor of alcohol coming from his breath. Curry says Gorence then performed badly on a field sobriety test.

Police also reported finding a partially empty bottle of Jim Beam under the driver's seat of Gorence's BMW.

Gorence was charged with DWI and possession of an open container. He was later released on his own recognizance.

Gorence did not immediately return phone messages.

Former Tucumcari Fire Chief Pleads No Contest To 5 ChargesEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

A former fire chief in eastern New Mexico accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a city employee has been convicted of five criminal counts.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports 42-year-old Shane Warner pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that included assault with intent to commit a violent felony, attempt to commit extortion, felony tampering with evidence and misdemeanor embezzlement.

Prosecutors say the former Tucumcari fire chief drugged and sexually assaulted a female ambulance worker in March 2016.

Prosecutors are expected to recommend a suspended sentence and five years of supervised probation.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled for Warner.

Warner was hired as fire chief in January 2015. The city fired him in March 2017.

Study Finds US Plutonium Plan Comes With Budget, Scheduling Risks - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Consultants are warning that every option considered by the U.S. government to ramp up production of the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear warheads will have cost and scheduling risks.

The findings are part of a study done by the Institute of Defense Analyses that was delivered to Congress on Tuesday. The report was not made public, but officials acknowledged that it recognized the challenges of restarting production.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has proposed splitting the work between Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savanna River Site in South Carolina.

According to the assessment, if enough time and resources are focused on the effort, the plan would be "potentially achievable."

Nuclear watchdogs, government accountability advocates and other critics are concerned given a history of safety lapses and unchecked spending within the nation's nuclear complex.

California Dispute Threatens Plan To Protect Colorado River By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

A dispute between two major California water agencies is threatening to derail a hard-won agreement designed to protect a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest single recipient of Colorado River water, on Tuesday sued a Los Angeles water utility that agreed to contribute most of California's share of water to a key reservoir under a multistate drought contingency plan.

The action came the same day President Donald Trump approved federal legislation to implement the plan, which Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating.

The agreement is meant to keep the country's two largest reservoirs on the Colorado River from dropping so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower amid prolonged drought and climate change.

The Imperial Irrigation District said it wouldn't join the drought plan unless it secured $200 million in federal funding to address health and environmental hazards at the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake southeast of Los Angeles.

New Mexico Seeks Energy Savings In State Building Upgrades - Associated Press

New Mexico is pushing forward with energy-saving upgrades to its portfolio of agency buildings in the state capital.

The General Services Department that oversees more than 800 buildings across the state announced Tuesday that it plans to invest $32 million on projects to improve the energy efficiency of state buildings in Santa Fe and generate renewable electricity with photovoltaic solar panels. Solar installations are planned on 19 buildings.

The Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have dedicated $20 million to the initiative. Permission is being sought from the New Mexico Finance Authority to borrow an additional $12 million.

The contractor hired to implement the project is guaranteeing energy-related savings of $1.1 million a year, and actual savings should be higher.

Albuquerque Approves Plastic Bag Ban – Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque City Council has approved a bill that prohibits businesses from offering single-use plastic shopping bags.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the council passed the Clean and Green Retail Ordinance late Monday after an amendment removed foam carryout containers and plastic straws from the bill.

Councilor Ken Sanchez introduced that amended version, which also exempts dry cleaners and restaurants from the ban on plastic bags.

A first offense will garner only a warning, but penalties can go as high as $250.

The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The three Republicans on the council opposed the bill arguing the cost will be a burden on businesses. Among the nearly 40 speakers, the majority supported the bill as a way to protect birds and curtail litter.

Congresswoman Torres Small Outraising GOP Opponents - Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is outraising 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 $444,000 during her first three months in office after winning the seat in November. Records show she had around $519,000 cash on hand.

Republican Yvette Herrell, who lost to Torres Small last year and is seeking a rematch, raised $211,000 during the same period and reported having $285,000 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 loaned his campaign $76,000 and had $67,000 cash on hand.

No other candidates have declared for the seat.

City In New Mexico Authorizes Spending On Asylum Seekers - Associated Press

The city of Las Cruces is spending $75,000 on humanitarian aid to cope with an influx of international asylum seekers.

City spokesman Udell Vigil said Tuesday that over 600 asylum seekers have been dropped off in the southern New Mexico community by U.S. immigration authorities since Friday. The city council authorized spending on food, water, transportation and personal hygiene items.

Las Cruces has converted its recreation center into sleeping quarters for immigrants as local shelters for the homeless reach capacity. Vigil says immigrants rarely stay more than one night before departing to reach relatives or other household sponsors throughout the continental U.S. to live with while asylum requests are processed.

New Mexico's Homeland Security Department says asylum seekers are likely to continue arriving in Las Cruces for several weeks.

Trump Signs Colorado River Drought Plan - Associated Press

President Donald Trump has signed a plan to cut back on the use of water from the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. West.

Trump announced the action Tuesday on Twitter.

The Colorado River drought contingency plan aims to keep two key reservoirs from falling so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower. It was negotiated among the seven states that draw water from the river.

Mexico also agreed to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if the U.S. legislation was approved by April 22.

Arizona has the lowest-priority access to Colorado River water and will be hit hardest. The state negotiated a separate agreement to provide other water sources and new groundwater infrastructure for farmers between Phoenix and Tucson.

Ex-Trump Official Says He Will Seek GOP Nod For US Senate - Associated Press

Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump Administration official and former candidate for Congress, has announced he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico.

Clarkson said Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination in 2020 for Senate and will make immigration and "free speech on public campuses" his center issues.

He made his announcement in an interview with the conservative-leaning blog, NM Politics with John Block. Clarkson is the first Republican to say he will run for the state's open Senate spot.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján — the No. 4 ranked Democrat in Congress — said earlier this month he would seek the Democratic nomination. Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she's also considering running.

Former New Mexico Judge Who Was Forced To Step Down Dies - Associated Press

A former New Mexico judge known for his fairness on the bench but who was forced to retire early in the wake of allegations that rocked the state's judiciary has died.

Officials with New Mexico's 2nd Judicial District Court said Albert "Pat" Murdoch died Monday. He was 67.

The cause of his death was not immediately known, and court officials declined to release further details.

A 1978 graduate of the University of New Mexico law school, Murdoch went on to become the youngest person ever appointed as a state district judge.

As the 2nd district's chief criminal judge, he was respected by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

His career was derailed in 2011 when a sex worker accused him of rape. While he agreed to step down, he maintained his innocence and prosecutors in 2014 decided not to press charges.

Case Of Man Who Killed 5 As Teen Again Goes Before Judge - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

A prosecutor has argued that a New Mexico man plotted a shooting rampage at his family's home when he was 15, as she delivered closing arguments in a case that has taken years to resolve in the state's court system.

The hearing Tuesday in Albuquerque is being held to determine whether 22-year-old Nehemiah Griego should be sentenced as a juvenile or an adult for the January 2013 shootings at his home.

It marks the second such hearing after the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned an initial decision that Griego showed he was receptive to treatment while in state custody and could be sentenced as a juvenile.

Judge Alisa Hart took the case after the judge overseeing Griego's case and monitoring his treatment for years recused himself in December.

Albuquerque Boy Found Dead In Apartment FireAssociated Press

Authorities say the body of a young boy was found after a fire burned through an Albuquerque apartment.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue spokesman Tom Ruiz did not release any details about the boy and said two other children — ages 2 and 13 — remained in critical condition at a local hospital where they were being treated for smoke inhalation.

Several residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and authorities say one woman sprained her ankle when she jumped from a second-story balcony.

All but one of the building's 31 residents were accounted for after the fire broke out early Tuesday. Fire crews had to stabilize the building before they could search for the missing child.

Ruiz said the boy's family was notified of his death.