Former APS Official Acquitted of Sexual Assault, Corizon Pays $4.5 Million In Inmate Suits

Jun 29, 2016

Former Colorado School Official Hired By APS Acquitted Of Sex AssaultAssociated Press

A Denver jury on Tuesday acquitted a former Colorado school official who was later hired by Albuquerque Public Schools of four counts of sexual assault of a child.

Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough added in an email to The Associated Press that Jason Martinez still faces two counts of assault against two men in an unrelated case. He is out on bond and scheduled to appear in a Denver court in August in that case.

Martinez was hired last year by Albuquerque Public Schools despite being charged with sexually abusing two young boys. The outcry over the hiring led the APS superintendent to resign. Martinez quit.

The proceedings that ended in acquittal Tuesday were the second for Martinez in the case involving the boys after a mistrial was declared last year.

Santa Fe Among School Districts In Civil Rights SettlementThe Associated Press 

Santa Fe Public Schools has avoided a civil rights investigation by pledging to improve website accessibility for people with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the settlement Wednesday with 11 education organizations in seven states and one territory.

Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, says the Santa Fe Public Schools and others in the settlement promised to revamp websites to make them accessible to people with disabilities.

Previous investigations found that on all 11 websites important images were missing text descriptions, called "alt tags." The tags describe the images to blind and low-vision users who use special software. Probes also found that some videos were not accurately captioned.

The Nevada Department of Education and the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind were also part of the settlement.

Albuquerque Opens New Office For Immigrants, Refugees KOB-TV, Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque is opening a new office for immigrants and refugees.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the city of Albuquerque $300,000 for the establishment of an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

The initial funds will staff an office and pay for research and development to blueprint for a mission.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says the grant allows the city to take other than taxpayer dollars and impact positive change in Albuquerque communities.

Berry says also it's an opportunity for local government to connect with immigrant and refugee populations.

The mayor says it will take months to develop a specific blueprint for the new office's mission.

Gov. Martinez Touts Cases Probed Under DNA Testing Law - Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez says the expansion of a DNA testing law named for a slain New Mexico college student has helped authorities connect hundreds of suspects arrested on felony charges to other unsolved crimes in the past five years.

Martinez says a 2011 expansion of Katie's Law has linked 339 New Mexico suspects to 344 other cases, including more than a dozen homicides and 40 sex crimes.

The governor says only 407 suspects would have been connected to 420 other cases if the expansion weren't in place.

The decade-old law is named for Kathryn Sepich, a New Mexico State University student whose killer was identified with DNA evidence after he was convicted of another crime.

The original law required DNA samples from suspects arrested for violent felonies. The 2011 revision extended the testing requirement to all felonies.

Corizon Paid $4.5 Million To Settle Inmate LawsuitsSanta Fe New Mexican

The private firm that provided medical services in state prisons has settled lawsuits over alleged abuse for more than $4.5 million.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports most of the payouts from Corizon Correctional Healthcare appear to be related to a doctor accused of sexually assaulting inmates during medical exams at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton.

There were more than 150 lawsuits filed by about 200 inmates against Corizon in the nine years it had a state contract, which is lost in May.

The company released the settlement information after the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Albuquerque Journal and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government filed public records requests and the New Mexican published articles investigating allegations against the firm.

Federal Lawsuit Targets Cougar Trapping In New MexicoAssociated Press

Environmentalists are suing the New Mexico Game Commission in federal court, arguing that expanded cougar trapping threatens endangered Mexican gray wolves and jaguars.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection New Mexico and residents Peter and Jean Ossorio.

The commission voted last year to allow trapping on 9 million acres of state lands, but opponents voiced concerns that the decision was based on politics rather than science.

The revision removed the requirement to obtain permits to trap cougars on private land. It also cleared the way for using leg-hold trapping and snaring on state lands.

Game officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

An attorney for the Humane Society says trapping threatens to undermine efforts to recover wolves and jaguars in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Program Gets New LocationAssociated Press

New Mexico's medical marijuana program will be operating out of a new location beginning next week.

State health department officials said Tuesday that the new office in Santa Fe will be larger and will have room for more employees and infrastructure to keep up with the growing number of patients who are enrolling in the program.

Participation has increased by about 12,000 in the last year, bringing the number of active patients to about 25,000.

The Health Department also has hired two new full-time employees, assigned two temporary workers and added Saturday shifts in an attempt to reduce wait times for patient registry cards.

Officials say the office will close Thursday in preparation for the move. Services will resume at the new location beginning July 5.

Owners To Liquidate Contents Of Historic Lodge In Santa Fe Associated Press

The entire contents of the historic Bishop's Lodge will be up for sale as the owners work on renovating the resort and spa just north of Santa Fe.

The liquidation begins Thursday and will continue for 14 days.

Organizers say it will be the largest garage sale of its type in the Santa Fe area. Everything will be up for grabs — from furniture and fixtures to kitchen equipment, linens and thousands of other items.

The lodge shut its doors in late 2015 so construction could begin. The work is expected to be complete in 2017, with the addition of nearly three dozen rooms and remodeled public spaces.

Situated on more than 300 acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the resort at Bishop's Lodge dates back to the 1920s.

University Of New Mexico Starts Chicano Studies Online Plan By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is launching an online degree program in Chicana and Chicano Studies beginning this fall.

Under the program, the newly minted department will allow students to take online classes in Chicano studies toward a degree. Officials say the online classes with allow nontraditional students with busy schedules to get a Bachelor's degree in Chicano studies.

The program is aimed at students who already have 24 hours of college credit.

The move comes a year after Chicana and Chicano Studies became an official department at the school.

Officials say they hope to develop a Chicano studies graduate program.

Around 46 percent of the university's student body is Latino.

Albuquerque Mayor Appoints Biopark Executive Associated Press

The Albuquerque mayor has appointed a new ABQ BioPark chief executive who will oversee the attraction's aquarium, zoo, botanical gardens and other sites.

James T. Allen was selected for the job after a months-long search.

A retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and civil engineer officer, Allen moves to Albuquerque from Denver, where he was a senior director for Denver Public Schools. He also is a former construction director for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The BioPark chief executive's job is a new position that was created to implement a re-design, construction and renovation of the Albuquerque cultural site.

The project is being funded by a gross receipts tax approved by Albuquerque voters last year.

The tax will fund most of Allen's $158,000 salary, while the BioPark Society will pay $60,000 of it each year.

Albuquerque Seeing Rental Car ShortageAlbuquerque Journal

Rental cars are at a premium in Albuquerque, with at least one local outlet telling customers they have to go on a waiting list.

The Albuquerque Journal reports rental car companies such as Hertz, Avis and Enterprise have a severe shortage of cars and they blame vehicle safety recalls and increased demand.

The worldwide recall of vehicles with Takata air bag inflators was expanded this month to bring the total to about 64 million.

An Enterprise spokeswoman said the bigger factor in the shortage is increased demand and her company is bringing more cars to Albuquerque. Most visitors who fly to New Mexico land at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

US, Nonprofit Work With Landowners To Reduce Wildfire Risk Associated Press

The federal government and a nonprofit group say they'll work with private property owners to reduce the risk of major wildfires and protect rivers in the West.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the American Forest Foundation said Tuesday the $5 million program will include California, Colorado, Montana and Oregon.

Another project will be selected in the Four Corners region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The American Forest Foundation says the work targets areas at high risk of wildfires that could cause erosion and other problems for vital waterways.

The projects include areas in California's Sierra Nevada range, the South Platte watershed in the mountains west of Denver, the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana and the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

Hobbs Police Says 100 Applicants Seeking Spots With Force Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall says his department has seen around 100 applicants for openings thanks to a hiring push.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports that Hobbs police are trying to fill around nine open spots for a department that was battling shortages for months.

Two months ago, Hobbs police officials launched a recruitment effort that focused on applicants from Hobbs and the Lea County area.

Hobbs and surrounding police departments in eastern New Mexico have faced an officer shortage because of the oil boom in recent years. But despite gas prices falling, some agencies still have struggled to find qualified applicants.