Proceedings Ordered For NM Man Who Killed Family, Judge Approves Measure Against Wage Theft

Mar 9, 2018

Proceedings Ordered For New Mexico Man Who Killed Family- Associated Press

The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Friday cleared the way for more court proceedings to determine whether a man who killed five family members as a teen was receptive to treatment.

The ruling came as Nehemiah Griego approaches his 21st birthday on March 20 and is scheduled for release under a 2016 order that found he had been receptive to psychological treatment.

It also said his therapy and rehabilitation at a state facility for adolescents had prepared him for release.

Attorney General Hector Balderas appealed that order in an attempt to have Griego's juvenile sentence overturned.

Prosecutors initially argued for Griego to be sentenced as an adult and sent to state prison after he pleaded guilty, saying the crime was premeditated and he had not expressed remorse.

Balderas said Friday he was pleased with the appellate court's decision.

Santa Fe Couple Donates $4M For New Art Museum Facility- Associated Press

Officials say they are one step closer to a $10 million project that would convert a 1917 warehouse facility into a contemporary annex of a Santa Fe art museum after receiving a huge donation.

Officials shared designs for the new contemporary annex of the New Mexico Museum of Art on Thursday.

They say the new museum facility will be named Vladem Contemporary after Santa Fe residents Ellen and Robert Vladem who donated $4 million for the project.

Officials say they will transform the long-closed Halpin Building located in between two rail lines into an attraction for Rail Runner Express train passengers visiting Santa Fe.

Museum of New Mexico Foundation President and CEO Jamie Clements say they still need to raise $2.3 million for the project.

Officials hope to break ground in early 2019.

New Mexico Candidates For Governor Join Bipartisan Forum- Associated Press

Republican and Democratic candidates for governor in New Mexico have agreed to participate in a public forum Sunday about the public's right to access government documents and other transparency issues.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Peter St. Cyr said the participation of all gubernatorial candidates is a testament to widespread concerns about transparency in government as an essential component of democracy.

A live webcast of the forum in Albuquerque is planned on the foundation's Facebook page.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez cannot seek a third term in November elections. U.S.  Rep. Steve Pearce is the only Republican candidate for the top statewide office. The Democratic nomination is being sought by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, former media executive Jeff Apodaca and educator Peter DeBenedittis.

Memoir By Former Border Patrol Agent Sparks Debate- Associated Press

Francisco Cantu said he joined the Border Patrol at age 23 to get an on-the-ground education in international relations.

Now 32, he says he didn't expect his new memoir examining some of the agency's uglier aspects would spark protests by far-left groups denouncing him for the enforcement work and forcing him to cancel some talks promoting "The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border."

He said he agrees with much of the criticism from the left — even though it caught him off guard — and had expected most of the backlash to come from the right.

Cantu told his detractors on Twitter: "To be clear: during my years as a BP agent, I was complicit in perpetuating institutional violence and flawed, deadly policy. My book is about acknowledging that, it's about thinking through the ways we normalize violence and dehumanize migrants as individuals and as a society."

Cantu said he wrote the book to make sense of his time with the patrol.

Judge Approves Measures Against Wage Theft- Associated Press

A district court judge in New Mexico has approved new measures aimed at protecting workers from wage theft by employers in New Mexico.

Judge David Thomson on Friday approved a settlement stemming from a lawsuit by workers and advocacy groups against the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

The agreement is designed to make it easier for workers to recover unpaid wages and additional penalties from employers. It lifts a $10,000 limit on claims of missing wages and will allow workers to resubmit complaints that were improperly rejected in recent years.

The state will begin accepting wage-theft claims in remote communities through a network of more than 20 New Mexico Workforce Connection Centers under the settlement.

Victims of wage theft spoke of their travails at a court hearing in Santa Fe and endorsed the settlement. No one voiced opposition.

New Mexico Supreme Court Affirms Copper Rule – The Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to water quality regulations adopted in 2013 for copper mining operations.

The state attorney general's office and environmentalists had opposed the so-called copper rule, saying it didn't go far enough to protect the state's limited groundwater supplies from contamination.

The New Mexico Environment Department and the Water Quality Control Commission have argued the regulations are among the most stringent of any copper-producing state in the West.

The Supreme Court said its task was to determine whether the regulations violated the Water Quality Act, not to assess the most effective and efficient way to combat adverse effects from pit mining.

The justices rejected claims that the rule was invalid because it differed from past regulatory approaches for controlling discharges at copper mines.

New Mexico Residents Eye Congress Testimony On Trinity Test– The Associated Press

Residents of a New Mexico Hispanic village near the site of the world's first atomic bomb test want to share their stories with Congress.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium is raising money so its members can travel to Washington, D.C., and testify about the effects of the Trinity Test on generations of Tularosa residents.

The group is holding a jazz benefit concert in Albuquerque on Sunday.

Members of the consortium say many who lived in the area weren't told about the dangers and were diagnosed with rare forms of cancer. They say they want acknowledgment and compensation from the U.S. government.

Scientists working in the then-secret city of Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. The bomb was tested in a stretch of desert near towns with Hispanic and Native American populations.

Trinity Site To Host First Of 2 Annual Open Houses – Associated Press

Military officials in southern New Mexico are preparing to host visitors at the spot of the world's first atomic test during a special one-day open house at the Trinity Site.

The first of two annual open houses will be April 7.

At the site on White Sands Missile Range, visitors can take a quarter-mile walk to ground zero where a small obelisk marks the spot of detonation. Historical photos are mounted on the fence surrounding the area.

Visitors can also tour the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House, where scientists assembled the bomb's plutonium core.

Last July marked the 70th year anniversary of the test at the Trinity Site. It was part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret World War II nuclear development program out of the then-secret city of Los Alamos.

Northern New Mexico Agency Facing Probe Over Spending Abuse – The Associated Press, The Los Alamos Monitor

An agency of New Mexico municipalities surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory is the focus of an investigation while the group's executive director faces an uncertain future.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports Los Alamos County will hire outside counsel to investigate alleged ethics abuses of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

The move comes after the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that an audit recently found that executive director Andrea Romero spent public money on expensive dinners with alcohol in Washington, D.C., and on baseball tickets.

Romero apologized for the alleged abuses at a meeting this week. Her contract with the agency expired last week and the group is debating whether to renew it.

New Mexico Changes System For State Lottery Scholarships- Associated Press

New Mexico is providing more certainty for college students about the amount of financial aid they can count on from state lottery revenues, but elected officials and others say more needs to be done to shore up the scholarship program as higher education costs climb.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation Wednesday that decouples the value of lottery scholarships from the cost of tuition by setting a fixed amount for the awards based on the kind of institution a student attends.

Tuition and demand for financial aid have outpaced lottery revenues for nearly a decade, forcing lawmakers and university administrators to get creative about helping students fill the gap. When it began in 1996, the scholarship covered 100 percent of average tuition rates.

Former Employee Accuses Union Leader Of Sexual Harassment – The Associated Press

A former union employee has accused a prominent figure in New Mexico's film industry of sexually harassing her, touching her inappropriately and attempting to block her from finding other work after the union fired her.

Christa Valdez, in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, accuses Jon Hendry, the president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor and a business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480, of harassing and intimidating her and then orchestrating her termination when she complained about his behavior.

Hendry said he couldn't comment on the pending litigation and referred comments to the union's lawyer, Robert Giolito, who also declined to comment.

Valdez's attorney, Trent Howell, did not return a call seeking comment.

Hendry "continually harassed and intimidated" Valdez with sexual propositions while she worked at the union, the lawsuit states.

The union gave Valdez a notice of termination in August 2017, she says in the suit.

Valdez also names the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, where she worked as a public relations representative, as a party in the lawsuit.

Valdez and Howell are asking for a jury trial and are seeking financial reparations, including back pay, lawyers' fees and compensation for emotional distress.

New Mexico Attorney General Goes After Rooftop Solar Company- Associated Press

A residential rooftop solar provider that operates in New Mexico and 20 other states was accused Thursday by the state attorney general of defrauding residents and jeopardizing their home ownership through deceptive sales practices.

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit in state district court against Vivint Solar, Inc. over claims that the company was engaging in a pattern of unfair and unconscionable business practices, fraud and racketeering.

The case centers on the company's door-to-door sales tactics and agreements made with customers to purchase power from the solar panel systems. Similar complaints by prosecutors in other states have resulted in settlements.

Vivint said it takes the allegations seriously but believes the lawsuit lacks merit.

According to the complaint, Vivint binds New Mexico consumers into 20-year contracts that require consumers to purchase electricity generated by the solar panels installed on their homes at rates that increase by over 72 percent during the 20 years.

Former New Mexico Senator Starts Prison Term For Corruption- Associated Press

Former New Mexico State Sen. Phil Griego has begun serving a jail term for fraud, bribery and other convictions stemming from accusations he misused his elected office to profit from a real estate deal.

Defense attorney Thomas Clark said Thursday that Griego turned himself over to the state Corrections Department in Los Lunas to serve an 18-month sentence.

A judge has asked that the 70-year-old Griego be confined in a facility reserved for elderly inmates or those with health difficulties rather than with the general prison population. Corrections officials have yet to decide where to hold Griego.

Griego initially was fined $47,000 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. A judge waived all but 18 months. Griego may serve as little as 9 months with credit for good behavior.

WIPP Wants To Define Measurements To Store More Nuclear Waste - The Associated Press

Officials want to allow more nuclear waste to be stored in an underground facility in southeastern New Mexico.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Waste Isolation Pilot Plant officials are looking to redefine how the volume of the waste is calculated at the facility near Carlsbad.

The facility is about halfway to capacity under the current calculations, which take into account the air between the waste containers for the total volume.

The drums of waste are packed into another case to protect against spills.

Officials are seeking to change the volume calculations to be based on the inner containers, which they say is a more accurate measurement.

Officials say the facility is about a third full under the new volume calculations.