KUNM

Gov Candidate Wants Pay For Lawmakers, NM Auditor Plans Review Of Criminal Justice Agencies

May 24, 2018

Democratic Candidate For Governor Wants Pay For LawmakersThe Associated Press

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca says he wants New Mexico lawmakers to become paid politicians to help eliminate financial conflicts of interest between their legislative duties and outside careers.

Apodaca said Thursday that he supports reforms to provide state legislators with a full-time salary and lengthen legislative sessions that currently last 60 days or less.

Limited safeguards against self-enrichment in the nation's only unsalaried legislature are under scrutiny in the wake of a corruption trial against a former state Sen. Phil Griego.

Apodaca is calling attention to state contracts for a high-risk insurance pool that went to a consulting company co-founded by primary election opponent Michelle Lujan Grisham and her campaign treasure, state Rep. Deborah Armstrong. Lujan Grisham, a U.S. congresswoman, says she divested from Delta Consulting last year.

New Mexico Auditor Plans Review Of Criminal Justice AgenciesThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The New Mexico auditor is planning to launch a review of Albuquerque-area criminal justice agencies to examine their internal processes.

The Albuquerque Journal reports State Auditor Wayne Johnson announced plans Wednesday to audit seven agencies to identify the issues that cause the system to sometimes fail.

The audit will include Albuquerque-area law enforcement agencies, the district attorney's office, the public defender's office, courts and jail.

Johnson says the review will be a systems analysis, which will examine how the agencies operate within the broader justice system.

He says the agencies don't appear to communicate well among each other and tracking cases can be difficult as an offender may be issued different case numbers at every step.

He says the audit should take about five to six months to complete.

Eastern New Mexico County Begins Work On Jail RenovationsThe Associated Press

Officials in eastern New Mexico have broken ground on a project aimed at expanding and renovating a county jail that has had its share of problems.

Talk of upgrading the Curry County Adult Detention Center first started in 2008 after a string of inmate escapes. The lack of funding stalled the effort until commissioners voted in 2014 to raise taxes to pay for the project.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports that the increase in gross receipts taxes by one-quarter percent will generate $14 million for the detention center and the county's new administration offices.

The detention center project includes new housing and medical units, recreation yards, video visitation areas and other improvements.

The work is expected to be done by October 2019.

State Lawmaker's Comments During DWI Arrest To Be ReviewedThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office says it will review a drunken-driving case involving state Rep. Monica Youngblood to see whether the 41-year-old Albuquerque Republican inappropriately tried to use her legislative position to influence police.

Youngblood was arrested early Sunday on suspicion of aggravated DWI at an Albuquerque checkpoint where she complied with a field sobriety test but refused a blood-alcohol test.

Police video released Tuesday recorded Youngblood mentioning her legislative work several times at the checkpoint, and the Attorney General's Office said Wednesday it would review the matter.

Youngblood defense attorney Paul John Kennedy did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press for comment.

Youngblood on Sunday said in a statement that she regretted the situation, particularly her decision not to take the blood-alcohol test.

Environmentalists Take Aim At Power Plant's Discharge PermitThe Associated Press

Environmental groups say a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that provides electricity to Arizona customers has been operating under a water discharge permit that should have been updated years ago.

The groups say any failure to meet pollution control requirements could affect the Navajo Nation and other areas downstream from the Four Corners Power Plant.

They have taken their case to a federal appeals court in hopes of forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action on a permit renewal application that was initially filed in 2006.

An agency spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Arizona Public Service Co., the plant's majority owner, says it is meeting water quality regulations and no violations have been found during inspections by the Environmental Protection Agency.

ACLU Says Misconduct Claims By Children Are Widespread At BorderAssociated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union has released documents detailing widespread allegations of misconduct by U.S. border authorities toward children, including kicking one in the ribs, denying medical attention to a pregnant teen who complained of pain and threatening others with sexual abuse.

Its report published Wednesday said it is based on 30,000 pages of government documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and a subsequent lawsuit. The allegations date from 2009 to 2014 and, according to its authors, number in the hundreds.

Customs and Border Protection said the misconduct claims are "unfounded and baseless" and that the Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog did not find any misconduct in its review.

The report's authors say the quantity and consistency of the allegations indicate a level of truth.

US Southwest Victim Of Dryness, Rising TempsAssociated Press

National weather and wildfire experts say the American Southwest is one of the regions hardest hit by drought as many areas have received just a fraction of their normal precipitation while temperatures have climbed.

Climatologist Brian Fuchs with National Drought Mitigation Center painted a grim picture Wednesday as he used a series of maps to depict the dryness that has consumed the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.

Fuchs says some areas in the four states are seeing near-record to record dryness. He explained that some spots have missed out on more than 12 inches of precipitation over the last two years.

Fuchs also shared photos of empty watering holes, dead wildlife and dry roadsides, saying reports of the effects are starting to make headlines. He described the conditions as alarming.

New Mexico Files Counterclaims In Water Fight With Texas Associated Press

New Mexico is accusing Texas of mismanaging its share of water from the Rio Grande and failing to plan for drought.

The claims were leveled in court documents filed late Tuesday as the states wrangle over management of the river.

Texas took its case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in response to a legal challenge by former New Mexico Attorney General Gary King.

Current Attorney General Hector Balderas says he's ready to move ahead with his own legal strategy, saying Texas and the federal government also bear responsibility to ensure the region has a sustainable water future.

New Mexico says it is meeting water delivery requirements. Texas wants the state to stop pumping groundwater along the southern border, arguing that the pumping depletes the aquifer that would otherwise drain back into the river and flow south.

Carlsbad Caverns Need More Time For Elevator RepairsAssociated Press

The primary elevators at Carlsbad Caverns National Park will not be working by Memorial Day despite plans to have renovations done ahead of the holiday weekend.

Park officials said Wednesday that completion of the work has been pushed back to June 15. The contractor was working 10-hour days, seven days a week in an effort to finish by May 25 but more time was needed.

The primary elevator system was originally installed in 1955 and went out of service in November 2015 when a motor shaft sheared off. Work to repair and modernize the elevators began last December.

Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce says he's disappointed in the continued delay given the park's role in drawing visitors to southeastern New Mexico.

Eastern New Mexico County Begins Work On Jail RenovationsEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

Officials in eastern New Mexico have broken ground on a project aimed at expanding and renovating a county jail that has had its share of problems.

Talk of upgrading the Curry County Adult Detention Center first started in 2008 after a string of inmate escapes. The lack of funding stalled the effort until commissioners voted in 2014 to raise taxes to pay for the project.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports that the increase in gross receipts taxes by one-quarter percent will generate $14 million for the detention center and the county's new administration offices.

The detention center project includes new housing and medical units, recreation yards, video visitation areas and other improvements.

The work is expected to be done by October 2019.

NMSU Regents Adopt Contract Terms For New LeadershipLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Two incoming leaders at New Mexico State University will earn more under contract terms adopted by regents.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Chancellor-designate Dan Arvizu will earn $500,000 per year in base pay. Incoming President John Floros will earn $450,000 annually.

The total earnings of $950,000 represent a more than 150 percent increase in pay over outgoing chancellor/president Garrey Carruthers' salary.

Board of Regents Chair Debra Hicks says the university plans to pay for the salary increase through savings resulting from administrative retirements. Regents also have a plan to set aside money through an investment strategy.

In announcing the pay rates, regents say the university needs the right talent to solve big challenges, such as a 22 percent overall decline in enrollment since 2013, the changing needs of students and online competition.

Southwest Airlines Crew Detail Engine ExplosionAssociated Press

The flight crew on the Southwest Airlines jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after an engine exploded has described the harrowing experience in their first joint interview.

Capt. Tammie Jo Shults called her first officer Darren Ellisor an "unsung hero" Wednesday on "CBS This Morning ," saying he helped communicate with the flight attendants while she took controls for the landing.

Meanwhile in the cabin, flight attendant Rachel Fernheimer says she made sure to reassure passengers that everything would be OK.

Part of the engine shattered a window on the plane in April, causing 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque to be partially sucked out. She died later.

Shults says while she is glad the plane landed safely, "the survival of 148 never eclipses the loss of one."

Federal Agency Closes New Mexico Trail After Hiker's DeathSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The Bureau of Land Management has temporarily closed a northern New Mexico trail after a hiker died in a fall last week.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the federal agency closed the La Junta Trail in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area near the village of Questa to address possible safety concerns.

New Mexico State Police say Owen O'Keefe fell about 200 feet hiking the trail last Wednesday. The 72-year-old was the caretaker of La Junta Campgrounds.

The steep trail descends about 800 feet into the Rio Grande Gorge.

The bureau says visitors can still access the gorge area by the Little Arsenic Springs Trail.

The bureau did not specify what the potential safety concerns are or when the trail will reopen.

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