KUNM

Ex-State Treasurer To Help In APD Reform, Wage Theft Reports Up In Santa Fe

Feb 26, 2018

Ex-State Treasurer To Help In Albuquerque Police Reform – The Associated Press

A former state treasurer will lead police reform efforts in New Mexico's largest city.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of James Lewis as senior adviser for public safety over the weekend.

Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says Lewis will ensure the Albuquerque Police Department is complying with federal court-ordered reforms.

A lengthy 2014 review by the U.S. Department of Justice identified a "culture of aggression" within Albuquerque police. The report also faulted the police department for using unreasonable force with the mentally ill.

The reforms became a focus of last year's mayoral race.

Keller says Lewis will work closely with the city's police department and the U.S. Justice Department. He'll also help develop a community policing plan.

Wage Theft Reports Up In New Mexico City With High Wage LawsThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A New Mexico city with one of the highest minimum wage in the country has seen wage theft complaints spike in the past three years.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports last year Santa Fe saw 16 employees accuse an employer of paying less than the minimum guaranteed by the city's Living Wage Ordinance.

Through a public records request, the New Mexican found that 2017 total was up from 14 complaints in 2016, and 12 complaints the year before that.

Those complaints undermine the good tidings that will accompany the hike in the city minimum wage scheduled to take effect next week.

The rate for all employees within Santa Fe city limits will rise to $11.40 on Thursday.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

It's $7.50 in New Mexico.Officials Install Well To Help Fuel Leak At Military BaseThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Officials working to clean up groundwater contaminated by a jet fuel leak on a New Mexico military base hope a new extraction well will cut off the source of the contaminated plume.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the well is the closest of four extraction wells to the source of the spill on the northern edge of boundaries at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Kathryn Lynnes, the Air Force's senior adviser on the cleanup project, says the new extraction well will pump at a slower rate than the other three to avoid pulling other contaminants located near the source area.

The spill was the result of a leaking, underground pipe used to transport fuel that was discovered in 1999.

Since the beginning of the cleanup effort, more than 330 million gallons of contaminated groundwater have been pulled from the plume and purified.

Audit Raises Eyebrows On Northern New Mexico Agency SpendingThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A New Mexico state representative candidate is facing questions for her role at using public money for questionable expenses including alcohol, baseball tickets and upscale dinners.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports an audit recently found that Andrea Romero, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, spent money on $1,850 dinner in Washington, D.C., $307 bill for a dozen Major League Baseball tickets and other gatherings where alcohol was purchased.

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is an agency made of nine northern New Mexico cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Romero says the questions around her spending are politically motivated. A group tied to Rep. Carl Trujillo, whom Romero is challenging, filed open records request on the agency's spending.

Las Cruces Settles Brutality, Civil Rights Case For $1.4MThe Associated Press

A southern New Mexico city has settled a police brutality case for $1.4 million.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that a couple had sued the city, alleging police brutality and civil rights violations.

Jillian Beck said police slammed her face onto rocks, and injured her nose and wrist after responding to a dispute between neighbors. Andrew Beck alleged he illegally was detained in the January 2013 incident when he tried to help his wife.

A jury awarded the couple $1.6 million a year ago.

The city had been expected to appeal the decision. Instead, it settled months ago.

The Becks' attorney recently said the couple is healing from the trauma and she's hopeful the case brings positive change.

A city spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

New Mexico Teen's School Absence Unnoticed Before His DeathSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico boy who authorities say endured years of abuse and was found buried along the side of a rural highway had not attended school for several months.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Jeremiah Valencia's mother, Tracy Peña pulled him out of a Las Vegas, New Mexico, middle school in February 2017 and told school officials she would enroll him in a Santa Fe school, but she never did and the school and state did not notice.

Police say Valencia had been out of school for at least seven months before he died.

Officials say they did not discover the 13-year-old's body until two months after his estimated death in November because no one reported Valencia as missing.

Peña's boyfriend, Thomas Ferguson, is accused of beating Valencia to death. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that newly released search documents indicated Valencia may also have been burned and sexually assaulted.

Audit Raises Eyebrows On Northern New Mexico Agency SpendingSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico state representative candidate is facing questions for her role using public money for questionable expenses including alcohol, baseball tickets and upscale dinners.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports an audit recently found that Andrea Romero, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, spent money on $1,850 dinner in Washington, D.C., $307 bill for a dozen Major League Baseball tickets and other gatherings where alcohol was purchased.

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is an agency made of nine northern New Mexico cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Romero says the questions around her spending are politically motivated. A group tied to Rep. Carl Trujillo, whom Romero is challenging, filed open records requests on the agency's spending.

Alamogordo Republican To Appear 1st In GOP House RaceAssociated Press

A GOP New Mexico state lawmaker has earned 58 percent of the Republican delegates in a congressional race in southern New Mexico that is drawing national attention.

State Rep. Yvette Herrell, Alamogordo Republican, won most of the delegates on Saturday in Albuquerque at the party's pre-primary convention.

Monty Newman, a former Hobbs mayor and former state GOP chairman, finished second, with support from about 26 percent of the delegates.

Herrell's delegate count means her name will appear first on primary election ballots June 5.

The three other candidates in the race fell below the 20 percent threshold required to win an automatic spot on the ballot. Those candidates will make the ballot anyway since they will likely turn in enough petition signatures.

Wage Theft Reports Up In New Mexico City With High Wage LawsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico city with one of the highest minimum wages in the country has seen wage theft complaints spike in the past three years.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports last year Santa Fe saw 16 employees accuse an employer of paying less than the minimum guaranteed by the city's Living Wage Ordinance.

Through a public records request, the New Mexican found that 2017 total was up from 14 complaints in 2016, and 12 complaints the year before that.

Those complaints undermine the good tidings that will accompany the hike in the city minimum wage scheduled to take effect next week.

The rate for all employees within Santa Fe city limits will rise to $11.40 on Thursday.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

It's $7.50 in New Mexico.

Ex-Ranger Ordered To Pay Judgment For Excessive Force CaseAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has ordered a former U.S. Forest Service ranger to pay nearly $600,000 to a disabled Army veteran and another camper for violating their civil rights by using excessive force during their 2014 arrests in mountains east of Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera awarded the judgment to Adam Griego and Elijah Haukereid in their suit against David Chavez.

According to Herrera's findings Tuesday, Chavez handcuffed Griego and slammed his face into the hood of Chavez's truck and his head into a doorframe. Chavez threatened Haukereid with a stun gun and a dog before handcuffing him.

Chavez didn't appear during the trial to fight the lawsuit. He previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal civil rights charge and was sentenced to probation.

New Mexico Puts Breaks On Four-Day School SchedulesAssociated Press

New Mexico is threatening to cut off funding at schools that try and switch to a four-day week as the practice has spread to more than 40 percent of public school districts across the state.

State education officials and lawmakers say it's not clear that students and working families are helped by fewer, longer school days and want to gather more research. States nationwide increasingly are providing flexibility in school scheduling that can open the door to four-day weeks.

New Mexico lawmakers have placed a moratorium on additional four-day school schedules within a budget bill. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has until March 7 to act on the proposal.

Superintendents in far-flung districts say four-day weeks are key tool for attracting talented teachers to schools with limited financial resources.

Union Opposes Idea Of Arming TeachersKRQE-TV

The largest union representing teachers in New Mexico is opposing proposals that educators be armed in the wake of a mass shooting in a Florida school.

KRQE-TV reports the Albuquerque Teachers Federation said the idea to train teachers on carrying concealed weapons is ridiculous. President Donald Trump has pushed for this policy promoted by the National Rifle Association.

ATF President Ellen Bernstein said that will not make schools safer and she opposed earmarking resources for the effort, calling Albuquerque Public Schools one of the most underfunded school systems in the country.

Farmington Advocates Want Trained Teachers To Carry GunsFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A group of protesters gathered at the Farmington school district's central office in northwest New Mexico to protest gun violence and advocate for trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools.

The Farmington Daily Times reported that Holly Gregory, a substance abuse counselor and a substitute teacher for Bloomfield Municipal Schools, organized the recent protest in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida. She said the shooting that left 17 people dead opened a sore wound for her community, which was rocked in December from a shooting that left two students dead at Aztec High School.

Gregory said advocates are making steps to work with Four Corners school administrations on policies that would allow trained teachers to carry guns in schools, among other safety measures.

Report Cites Los Alamos Lapses In Handling Of Toxic MetalAssociated Press

A new federal report says Los Alamos National Laboratory violated regulations to protect workers from exposure to a metal that can cause lung disease and cancer.

The Energy Department inspector general's report says the nuclear weapons lab didn't properly track beryllium and didn't assure that contaminated areas were safe before work continued.

Lab spokesman Matt Nerzig says Los Alamos hasn't scaled back measures to protect workers but is "addressing the recommendations" in the inspector general's report.

The National Nuclear Security Administration says its oversight was insufficient due to staffing issues but that it doesn't know that shortcoming caused exposures at Los Alamos.

Terrie Barie of the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups says the problems at Los Alamos are disappointing, and Sen. Tom Udall says he's concerned by the report.

Interior Boss Alters Overhaul After Pushback - By Matthew Brown And Dan Elliott, Associated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has changed a proposed overhaul of his department with a new organizational map that more closely follows state lines instead of the natural boundaries he initially proposed.

The revisions follow complaints from Western state governors that they were not consulted before details of the sweeping overhaul were first revealed last month.

Zinke told The Associated Press on Friday that his goal remains unchanged: decentralizing the Interior Department's bureaucracy and creating 13 regional headquarters.

The redrawn map was obtained by AP and shows that states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming would fall within a single region instead of being split among multiple regions.

Other states remain divided, including California, Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

Interior officials say the changes resulted from discussions with governors, members of Congress and senior Interior staff.

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