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NM Agrees To Strengthen Wage-Theft Enforcement, Texas A&M Joins Bidding For Lab Contract

Dec 20, 2017

New Mexico Agrees To Strengthen Wage-Theft EnforcementThe Associated Press

A legal settlement has been reached to shore up New Mexico's enforcement of laws against wage theft by employers.

A coalition of labor-rights advocacy groups on Wednesday announced the agreement with the Department of Workforce Solutions. A district court judge is reviewing proposed requirements that the Division of Labor Relations take on more accusations of wage theft in which workers are underpaid or not paid at all.

New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty attorney Elizabeth Wagoner says more than 500 claims of wage theft are filed every year. She says the state previously denied one of every four complaints for improper reasons.

Under the proposed settlement, employers who fail to pay minimum or overtime wages are more likely to pay damages at three times the value of unpaid wages.

Texas A&M Joins Bidding For Los Alamos Lab ContractThe Associated Press

Texas A&M University is among the bidders interested in managing one of the nation's premier nuclear research laboratories.

The multibillion-dollar contract with Los Alamos National Security LLC to run Los Alamos National Laboratory expires in 2018. Federal officials announced in late 2015 that the contract wouldn't be renewed because of missed performance goals.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports that university officials confirmed their interest during a recent meeting with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

Texas A&M Assistant Vice Chancellor Scott Sudduth with the office of federal relations said one factor that helped with the decision to bid is the university's nuclear engineering program, which he described as one of the largest and oldest in the U.S.

Other bidders include the University of California and the University of Texas System.

State Police Make Arrest In Cuba HomicideThe Associated Press

New Mexico state police say they've filed a murder charge against a Cuba man who they say beat his roommate to death.

A state police statement says officers first encountered 33-year-old Kimsey Barboan at a convenience store on Saturday and he appeared intoxicated and injured. He told officers he was assaulted by unknown men.

Officers found a rifle and a bloody bat in his pickup and he was arrested for illegal firearm possession and driving without a license.

Two days later local sheriff's deputies discovered the body of 61-year-old Anthony Martinez in his home and state police investigators learned Barboan was his roommate. Barboan reportedly told investigators Martinez hit him with the bat and he took it away and began striking Martinez.

It's unclear if Barboan has an attorney.

New Mexico Candidate Paid Ticket After Arrest Warrant IssuedThe Associated Press

An arrest warrant was issued in August against a Democratic New Mexico candidate for governor because he failed to pay a speeding ticket for two months.

Candidate Jeff Apodaca says he later paid the citation for driving above the speed limit by 11-15 m.p.h. Apodaca campaign spokesman Eric J. Martinez said Tuesday that the speeding ticket was paid after a notice came in the mail.

Martinez says Apodaca initially forgot to pay the ticket while caught up in business and campaign activities across the state. He says it was the first ticket Apodaca received in over eight years.

Previously, Apodaca failed to pay taxes on his property in Santa Fe County for eight consecutive years until selling the vacant lot last year.

Pecan Weevil Has New Mexico Authorities On GuardThe Associated Press

New Mexico agriculture officials say an emergency quarantine recently extended in hopes of stopping the spread of an invasive bug threatening the state's pecan industry will remain in place as they look to protect the largest pecan-growing county in the United States.

State Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said Wednesday that growers across the state produced an estimated $213 million in pecans last year, with most of that coming from Dona Ana County.

While the county is free of pecan weevils, Witte said officials want to make sure it stays that way by restricting the movement of in-shell pecans from other areas and requiring that they be treated through cold storage methods.

Freezing the nuts will kill the pests.

Authorities also are concerned about an uptick in pecan thefts, from buckets to truckloads worth thousands of dollars.

Eastern New Mexico Mosque Vandalized Associated Press, Eastern New Mexico News

Officials say a mosque in New Mexico has been vandalized.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports vandals recently spray-painted "Happy Birthday Jesus Christ" on the Golden Mosque in Clovis. Photos show that the vandals also spray-painted "From a real Christain" — apparently misspelling the word "Christian."

Photos also show the vandals sprayed "Trump" near the door at the front of the building.

Clovis cardiologist Mahamadu Fuseini, who oversees the mosque, said nothing inside appeared to be damaged or stolen.

Fuseini says the mosque regularly hosts up to 20 Muslim families who worship there during Ramadan and also weekly for short prayer services on Fridays.

Police indicated the incident could be considered a hate crime but declined to say so definitively pending further investigation.

No arrests have been made.

New Mexico Remains Dry As Winter Nears Associated Press

Drought is continuing its march across New Mexico as the official start of winter nears.

The latest map shows nearly 90 percent of the state is dealing with some form of dryness, from the beginning stages of being abnormally dry to moderate drought. This is notably worse than the same period last year.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque say despite all the fog that blanketed parts of the city Tuesday morning, New Mexico's largest metro area has missed out on measureable precipitation for more than 10 weeks now.

As for a White Christmas, lower elevations are likely going to miss out while the chances are better for some communities in the high elevations across the northern reaches. Models also show temperatures are expected to be frigid.

New Mexico Woman Says Candidate Tried To Kiss Her Associated Press

A political supporter of Democratic U.S. Congresswoman and New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday accused a rival candidate of attempting to kiss her on the mouth at a social event.

Marianna Anaya of Albuquerque said that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca tried to kiss her on the mouth earlier this year at a whiffle ball game in Santa Fe that brought together staff from the Democratic Party and the American Federation of Teachers.

"While shaking hands after the game, Jeff — who I didn't know was Jeff at the time — came up to me totally smelling of beer and tried to kiss me on the lips," she said.

Apodaca campaign spokesman Eric J. Martinez called the allegation absolutely false and an attempt to divert attention from claims that Lujan Grisham discriminated against a transgender intern.

Insurance agent Laurie Martinez, of no relation to Eric, said she attended the whiffle ball event and disputed Anaya's account. She has known Apodaca since 1979.

"I was there and I've never seen Jeff act in an inappropriate way," she said.

Anaya, 28, is a communications organizer for the American Federation of Teachers. In a Facebook post, she criticized Apodaca for seeking an investigation of Lujan Grisham for possible discrimination.

Elaborating on her concerns, Anaya called it hypocritical and opportunistic of Apodaca to criticize Lujan Grisham about workplace issues given his behavior toward her at the whiffle ball game.

Apodaca is a former media executive whose father served as governor in the 1970s. On Monday, he called on U.S. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to investigate claims that Lujan Grisham discriminated against an intern.

Riley Del Rey says she was fired from her internship with Lujan Grisham three years ago over her transgender identity and was coming forward with her story because of the wave of news reports about harassment and discrimination.

Lujan Grisham says neither she nor her office would discriminate against anyone.

New Mexico Candidate Paid Ticket After Arrest Warrant Issued Associated Press

An arrest warrant was issued in August against a Democratic New Mexico candidate for governor because he failed to pay a speeding ticket for two months.

Candidate Jeff Apodaca says he later paid the citation for driving above the speed limit by 11-15 m.p.h. Apodaca campaign spokesman Eric J. Martinez said Tuesday that the speeding ticket was paid after a notice came in the mail.

Martinez says Apodaca initially forgot to pay the ticket while caught up in business and campaign activities across the state. He says it was the first ticket Apodaca received in over eight years.

Previously, Apodaca failed to pay taxes on his property in Santa Fe County for eight consecutive years until selling the vacant lot last year.

New Mexico prosecutors file charges in truancy cases Associated Press

Prosecutors in eastern New Mexico have filed charges against two mothers whose children have been repeatedly absent from school.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb announced the charges Tuesday, saying that violating the state's compulsory school attendance statute amounts to a petty misdemeanor.

Under the law, a student with more than 10 unexcused absences in a school year is considered a "habitual truant."

In one case, a woman's 15-year-old son compiled 21 unexcused absences as of September.

The matter was referred to the Juvenile Probation Department four times. The case ended up before prosecutors after the mother failed to meet with school officials or the probation office.

In the other case, a 6-year-old student logged 15 unexcused absences as of early October. There also were 11 days in which the child was tardy.

New Mexico Authorities Seek Info In Cold Case Of Missing Man Associated Press

Authorities are seeking information that might help solve the mystery of what happened to an 83-year-old man from Washington state who disappeared while in New Mexico.

Detectives with the Farmington Police Department say Lynn Goldin left his home in Vancouver, Washington, in August 2016 to search for treasure in the area of Hogback, New Mexico.

Goldin hasn't been seen since. His vehicle hasn't been found and there's been no activity on his credit card.

Goldin's son says his father loved to travel to different states and prospect for unclaimed treasures and that it wasn't his first trip to the area. Authorities say Goldin wasn't searching for any specific treasure, just that he liked to explore.

Authorities say Goldin was driving a grey 2006 Hummer H2 with a personalized Washington license plate, GOLDIN2.

Mill Fire Leads To Power Outage For Nearly 4,000 In Ruidoso Associated Press, KRQE-TV  

Electricity has been restored to nearly 4,000 customers in Ruidoso after an outage caused by a fire at a mill.

Authorities say the power was shut off Tuesday morning because of a gas leak that occurred at the Old Dowlin Mill.

KRQE-TV says the gas leak then caused an explosion and in order to put the fire out, PNM crews had to go over power lines.

Lawsuit Filed In Fatal Bernalillo County Deputy Shootings Associated Press

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in the connection with the fatal shooting of a truck passenger by a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy last month.

Martin Jim died in the Nov. 17 shooting along with the vehicle's driver Isaac Padilla.

The deputy involved told authorities that he fired several rounds at Padilla who tried to flee in a stolen pickup truck because he feared for the safety of his colleagues as the suspect revved the engine after being cornered.

Shawntay Ortiz filed the suit Tuesday in state district court. He's seeking damages for the death of 25-year-old Jim, who was his partner.

The suit says Jim didn't pose a danger to anyone.

Sheriff's officials say the office will wait to address the allegations during the litigation process.

Transgender Intern: Rep. Lujan Grisham Sent 'Fake' Letter Associated Press

A transgender former intern to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico denies writing a letter of apology after she was fired from the Congresswoman's office.

Riley Del Rey told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she believes the fraudulent letter that was circulated by Grisham's office is an attempt to discredit her charge that she was unlawfully fired for being transgender.

Del Rey acknowledged drafting a different letter that cited a "severe lack of communication" as the reason for her ouster but said she was pressured by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to rewrite it.

But Del Rey said she never signed off on the letter that apologizes for the "shame" she brought to the congresswoman's office.

"I acknowledge that my behavior was unprofessional and unacceptable. I profusely apologize if I brought about shame, embarrassment, or worry to the office as it was never my intention," according to a March 2015 letter attributed to Riley Golightly, who also goes by Riley Del Rey.

Del Rey said that is a forgery.

"It's literally fake news," Del Rey said. "I've never, ever seen it before."

Del Rey said she's filing a new ethics complaint against Lujan Grisham over the fabricated letter.

Nathan Schelble, Deputy Chief of Staff for Lujan Grisham, said the office stands by the apology letter.

"The apology letter we received was sent to us by Riley's employer, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute," Schelble said. "We have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the letter."

In a statement, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute denied the letter was a forgery and said Del Rey "has repeatedly been dishonest" with reporters about her departure from her internship.

"Ms. Del Rey was not terminated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but rather by CHCI, and the apology letter sent to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham following Ms. Del Rey's unprofessional behavior was indeed from Ms. Del Rey and fully warranted given the situation," the statement said.

The institute did not provide details about the alleged unprofessional behavior.

Del Rey said she was fired from her Lujan Grisham internship three years ago over her transgender identity and was coming forward with her story because of the wave of U.S. news reports about harassment and discrimination.

Del Rey alleged institute supervisors discussed her physical appearance with her after she began working in Washington, D.C., suggesting for example that her heels were too high or her hemline too short. She said her clothing was professional.

She said the organization's concerns culminated about three weeks into her internship during a meeting with staff from the institute and members of Lujan Grisham's office. Del Rey said she believed that staff in the congresswoman's office had become aware that she is transgender.

Schelble said the congresswoman's office did not know that Riley was transgender during her internship with CHCI, nor would anyone in the office ever discriminate against anyone due to their gender identity.

Lujan Grisham is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in New Mexico.

One of her Democratic primary opponents, Jeff Apodaca, said Monday that U.S. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should investigate claims Lujan Grisham discriminated against the transgender intern.

The allegations come a month after Lujan Grisham told Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla to abandon his bid for lieutenant governor over decades-old harassment claims.

Padilla later quit the race.

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