KUNM

NM Jury Pay Cut Proposed, Oversight Board Seeks Expert

Aug 23, 2016

Budget Crunch Being Felt By New Mexico Jurors – The Associated Press

New Mexico jurors and court interpreters are the latest group to feel the pinch of a budget crunch that has all of state government tightening its belt.

A fund that pays jurors and interpreters has been struggling for several years and the shortfall is now approaching $1 million.

Legislative analysts say the gap could be lessened if the courts slash juror pay rates to $4.25 an hour.

State statute calls for minimum wage. The Legislature has authorized the state Supreme Court to adjust the payments to cope with underfunding.

Court officials have set the rate for the current fiscal year at $6.25 an hour. That's 50 cents lower than the rate during the past two years.

The judiciary plans to ask lawmakers during the next regular session for funding to cover the shortage.

Oversight Board Seeks Outside Expert On JailAlbuquerque Journal

A civilian oversight board wants outside expertise to help determine if the Bernalillo County jail is following national standards on use of force and rape prevention.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a 2015 study found that the Metropolitan Detention Center had no process in place to determine if the facility was following the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Officials said they are addressing issues raised in the report. But Deanna Archuleta, a member of the Detention Facility Management Oversight Board, said an independent firm could provide information to help members understand what is happening at the jail.

Bernalillo County has come under fire for use of force inside the jail and is training employees on a new policy.

New Mexico Supreme Court Narrows Scope Of Whistleblower LawThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of a 2010 law meant to protect whistleblowers with a ruling in cases involving former Secretary of State Mary Herrera and two former employees.

The court overturned an earlier ruling by the state appellate court, finding that the Whistleblower Protection Act doesn't allow for claims to be brought against state officers in their individual capacity.

The court says the act can only be used to bring suit against government agencies or officials serving in their public roles.

The court also raised concerns that holding individuals personally liable under the act could deter people from public service.

Officials: Mine Spill Didn't Affect NM County Drinking Water – The Associated Press & The Farmington Daily Times

New Mexico officials say the massive mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado last year did not impact the quality of drinking water for most residents in San Juan County, New Mexico.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that the New Mexico Environment Department's Drinking Water Bureau informed the Gold King Mine Citizens' Advisory Committee that though the county's public water systems were shut down to keep the waste out, a year later the affected public water systems remain in compliance with drinking water standards.

An EPA-led crew triggered the spill at the Gold King Mine during preliminary cleanup work on Aug. 5, 2015. Three million gallons of wastewater carrying arsenic, lead and other heavy metals tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah that the opinion will affect other whistleblower cases around the state.

Officials: Mine Spill Didn't Affect NM County Drinking Water – The Associated Press & The Farmington Daily Times

New Mexico officials say the massive mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado last year did not impact the quality of drinking water for most residents in San Juan County, New Mexico.

The Farmington Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/2bxwvQw ) that the New Mexico Environment Department's Drinking Water Bureau informed the Gold King Mine Citizens' Advisory Committee that though the county's public water systems were shut down to keep the waste out, a year later the affected public water systems remain in compliance with drinking water standards.

An EPA-led crew triggered the spill at the Gold King Mine during preliminary cleanup work on Aug. 5, 2015. Three million gallons of wastewater carrying arsenic, lead and other heavy metals tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Potential Swing Vote To Weigh Tax-Break Plan For FacebookThe Associated Press

A potential swing vote on a contentious Utah plan to lure a Facebook data center with some $240 million in tax breaks is set to be decided as the State Board of Education takes up the issue.

The Tuesday afternoon meeting comes ahead of a key vote where several cities and school districts will decide whether to offer the tax breaks. The Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan is vying with a New Mexico location for the center.

Salt Lake County has thrown its weight against the plan, and under the rules one more no vote could be the end of the road.

Critics say the cost is too high for a facility that would create relatively few jobs, but supporters argue it would still generate revenue and bring a Facebook cache.

Curry County Jail Administrator Gets Reinstated After SuitAssociated Press

A judge has ordered that a Curry County jail administrator who was fired in 2013 be reinstated to his job, if he still wants it.

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge William Shoobridge also awarded pre-judgment interest of more than $30,000 from the time Gerry Billy was fired in January 2013.

Billy filed a lawsuit against the county in 2014 under the state Whistleblower Protection Act, arguing that he was wrongfully fired.

He was jail administrator for slightly more than a year.

Billy says he was fired in part because one of his employees wanted to form a labor union.

A District Court jury found the county liable for damages on Aug. 1 and awarded him about $88,000 for lost wages.

Billy was seeking $400,000 in damages.

New Mexico Governor Rules Out Tax Increase To Fix BudgetsAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez is indicating that she will not consider any tax increases as the state seeks to close the gap on a projected budget shortfall during a special legislative session tentatively planned for next month.

A spokesman for the Republican governor said Monday that state government needs to tighten its belt and that raising taxes in any way from families and businesses would make the state less competitive and hurt job prospects.

Legislative analysts have projected a general fund short of roughly $150 million for the budget year that ended in June, with a leading lawmaker warning of potentially greater shortfalls this year.

The governor's spokesman Chris Sanchez says a special legislative session needs to address budget problems for both the current and most recent fiscal years.

County Commissioner Wants Public Vote On TransitKOB-TV

A Bernalillo County Commissioner wants the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project to go to voters in the fall.

KOB-TV reports Debbie O’Malley will push for the question on the ballot at the commission meeting Tuesday evening. The $119 million project would build a series of dedicated bus lanes and stops along Central Avenue.

The ART project was approved earlier this year and pre-construction work has begun. Opponents have appealed a court ruling allowing the project to proceed and that’s pending.

If the question makes it to the ballot it would only be advisory in nature and would not impact the project’s future.

Some Albuquerque Teachers Told Not To Use 'Boys And Girls' KOB-TV, Associated Press

An Albuquerque elementary school is raising eyebrows after an assistant principal told teachers to stop calling students "boys and girls."

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports a Carlos Rey Elementary School assistant principal sent teachers a letter ordering them to no longer refer to students as boys and girls starting this month.

The "Gender Identity Procedural Directive" also told teachers to eliminate gender in their classrooms.

Albuquerque Public Schools says the assistant principal made a mistake and she was immediately addressing the overreach.

The district says nowhere in their transgender policy does it say to not call students "boys and girls."

Classes began this month.

Four Corners School District Eyes Solar Power To Reduce CostFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A school district in the heart of New Mexico's Four Corners oil and gas country is looking toward solar to reduce expenses.

The Daily Times of Farmington reports the Aztec Municipal School District board members recently approved a second project to install solar panels on district property.

The plan calls for installing solar panels on the roofs of five Aztec schools that is projected to cost about $915,000.

The move comes as administrators prepare to submit a third solar energy project for board approval that could produce as much energy as the first two projects combined.

Officials say the new solar panel system could generate about 341 kilowatts of energy, and it could produce about $86,000 in energy savings the first year.

Rubio's Former New Mexico Chair Not Ready To Back Trump – Associated Press

The former chair of Marco Rubio's New Mexico operation says she is not ready to back Donald Trump for president.

Monica Youngblood, a New Mexico lawmaker and Latina Republican, told The Associated Press on Monday she intends to back the GOP's nominee. But the Albuquerque Republican says she still needs to hear from Trump about his specific plans for New Mexico.

Youngblood says she tries to look past Trump's controversial statements and evaluate what a Trump presidency would mean for New Mexico — the nation's most Hispanic state.

New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez, a fellow Republican, also has not endorsed Trump and has said she still needs to hear his plans for the state.

Martinez has previously denounced Trump for his comments about Mexican immigrants.

Police Says Man They Shot Lunged With Knife Associated Press

Police have released the name of a robbery suspect who was fatally shot by officers in Las Cruces.

They say 36-year-old Juan Gabriel Torres of Las Cruces was armed with a knife when he was shot Sunday afternoon on a bridge over Interstate 25.

He later died from his injuries at a hospital.

Police say officers had responded to a home about a stolen pickup truck.

Officers later spotted the vehicle on the bridge where the driver confronted police while a knife.

Police say Torres refused to drop the knife and lunged toward one of the officers before being shot.

The shooting occurred near the Pan American Center where thousands gathered Sunday for the funeral of Hatch officer Jose Chavez, who authorities say was fatally shot by an Ohio fugitive.

Judge Rules Death-Scene Photos Don't Violate Privacy Rights Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal judge has ruled that a New Mexico State Police officer did not violate any constitutional right to privacy when he used his personal cell phone to take and text to friends pictures of a Santa Fe-area man who had been killed by police.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 34-year-old Samuel Pauly, who lived in Glorieta, was shot and killed by police in 2011 before an officer snapped photos of the death scene.

Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Judith C. Herrera found that Pauly's family failed to show that Pauly had the right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment after his death.

The family's attorney says the ruling effectively says dead people do not have privacy rights. He says he will likely appeal the ruling.

Navajo Nation Lawmakers To Face Sentencing Hearings Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Thirteen former Navajo Nation lawmakers are awaiting sentencing for their involvement in misusing the tribe's discretionary fund.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that hearings for the former Navajo Nation Council delegates are scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Window Rock, Arizona.

Prosecutors say the delegates abused a financial assistance program designed to help tribal members facing hard times.

Each delegate pleaded either guilty or no contest to charges of conspiracy, making or permitting false tribal voucher, conflict of interest or adversely affecting confidence of people in the government.

Tags: