KUNM

Santa Fe Schools Reconsider Security, Feds Announce Charges From Drug Investigation

Apr 26, 2018

Santa Fe School District Reconsiders Security ApproachThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The Santa Fe school district is backing away from a plan to place police officers on campuses among its efforts to improve school safety.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the city told Santa Fe Public Schools that its police department does not have enough officers to assign three to school campuses.

The city and district were talks about splitting the estimated $200,000 cost of the action.

School board members at a budget session Tuesday supported adding $500,000 next year to fund school safety and prevention. Some of that amount would pay for three full-time social workers.

Superintendent Veronica Garcia says the district is taking a multifaceted approach to addressing security. The district has already implemented a new a visitor check-in system and is planning to install a door barricading system.

Feds Announce Charges From Drug Trafficking InvestigationThe Associated Press

Federal authorities say a multi-agency investigation in New Mexico and in three other states has produced drug trafficking and money laundering charges against 16 people.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico said Thursday the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations centered on southern New Mexico and west Texas but also extended to Tennessee and South Carolina.

The office's announcement of the investigation says it began in April, culminated with 14 arrests Wednesday and also resulted in seizures of drugs, cash, vehicles and guns. Two of the accused already were in custody.

According to the announcement, the alleged traffickers imported cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico, distributed it in Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, and also transported drugs to Tennessee and South Carolina.

Hobbs Mayor: City Not Joining Legal Marijuana MovementThe Associated Press

Officials in the southeastern New Mexico city of Hobbs say the growing trend of legalizing or decriminalizing of marijuana isn't coming to their town anytime soon.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said this week the city will comply with state and federal laws and it doesn't have the authority to decriminalize marijuana.

Lea County Drug Task Force Commander Sean Roach says marijuana is still illegal and the task force will work to enforce the law.

The Lea County Commission last year unanimously passed a resolution to go on record they oppose legalization of recreational marijuana.

Last week, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed an ordinance making possession of small amounts of marijuana no longer a criminal offense.

Ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

New Mexico Regulators Order Utility To Explain Silo FailureThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico regulators have given the operator of a coal-fired power plant nearly two weeks to explain the cause of the structural failure of a coal silo last month.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission issued the order Wednesday to the Public Service Co. of New Mexico after the failure at its San Juan Generating Station resulted in a fire and some damage.

The order requires the utility to explain what repairs it intends to make and to provide a timeline for them.

Utility spokesman Dan Ware says the utility will comply with the order. He says the unit is expected to be operational by mid-June.

The utility has plans to close the plant in northwest New Mexico within the next few years.

Albuquerque Man Sentenced In Thanksgiving 2016 Arson CaseThe Associated Press

An Albuquerque man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for setting a string of fires in the days leading up to and during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend two years ago that damaged multiple establishments in New Mexico's largest city.

The locations authorities say 29-year-old David Hickman targeted in 2016 included an Old Navy, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and chapel of a local anti-abortion organization.

There were no reported injuries that resulted from the instances of arson, which occurred overnight or in the early morning hours when most businesses in the city are closed.

David Hickman was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Albuquerque after pleading guilty to five counts of arson last year.

He also was ordered to pay $406,348 in restitution.

Judge Dismisses Historic Preservation Claim In Drilling Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A U.S. district judge has dismissed claims by environmentalists who argued that the approval of dozens of drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico violated historic preservation laws due to potential threats to culturally significant sites.

Despite an earlier ruling that indicated the claims had merit, Judge James Browning issued an opinion and amended order this week determining that federal land managers did not violate the law because they considered the effects of the wells on historical sites.

The decision comes in a long-running dispute over management of vast expanses of land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The oil and gas industry welcomed the ruling, saying the 2015 lawsuit was more about derailing drilling rather than protecting the environment or the state's cultural treasures.

Environmentalists say they'll continue their fight to limit drilling in the region.

New Mexico Ex-Union Leader Denying Sexual Misconduct ClaimsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A former New Mexico labor and film union leader is denying sexual misconduct allegations that cost him his job and forced a Democratic Party of New Mexico chair to resign.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Jon Hendry in court documents denied all claims made against him by two women in a lawsuit.

The women contend in a suit filed in March that Hendry harassed and discriminated against them when they were union employees.

Hendry served as a business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 and resigned after the lawsuit. Hendry also had served as president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor.

Hendry's attorney, Sam Bregman, told the Journal his client "adamantly denies any wrongdoing or misconduct, and he looks forward to clearing his name."

Feds' Delays Imperil Migrant ChildrenAssociated Press

A Senate subcommittee has found that the government risks placing migrant children in the custody of human traffickers because federal agencies have delayed crucial reforms.

Federal officials came under fire two years ago for rolling back child welfare policies meant to protect unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. An Associated Press investigation found that more than two dozen were placed in homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work.

The subcommittee says agencies have yet to take full responsibility for their care.

The Health and Human Services Department has used limited funding to boost outreach to at-risk children. But advocates say it's hard to gauge the total number of minors who may face dangerous conditions.

College Tells GOP Congressional Candidate To Return To Job Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A former Trump administration appointee running for Congress in a closely watched New Mexico race says his university has denied his request to extend his leave of absence.

Republican Gavin Clarkson told the Las Cruces Sun-News this week a hearing officer ruled that he must return to his New Mexico State University business professor job or face termination.

The Republican says he requested a leave of absence until January 2020 after he was appointed to a Bureau of Indian Affairs position.

But Clarkson resigned from the agency last year following a harsh inspector general report into the loan program he directed. Clarkson says he stepped down to run for Congress in southern New Mexico.

NMSU spokeswoman Minerva Baumann says the university doesn't comment on personnel matters.

Clarkson says he will appeal the ruling to the Faculty Senate.

Hobbs Mayor Says City Not Joining Legal Marijuana MovementHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Officials in the southeastern New Mexico city of Hobbs say the growing trend of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana isn't coming to their town anytime soon.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said this week the city will comply with state and federal laws and it doesn't have the authority to decriminalize marijuana.

Lea County Drug Task Force Commander Sean Roach says marijuana is still illegal and the task force will work to enforce the law.

The Lea County Commission last year unanimously passed a resolution to go on record that they oppose legalization of recreational marijuana.

Last week, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed an ordinance making possession of small amounts of marijuana no longer a criminal offense.

Ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Albuquerque Starts Information Line For Sex Assault VictimsAssociated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller says the city has partnered with a local organization to set up an information line that sexual assault victims can call to seek information about their cases.

He says the information line is the result of an initiative that has prioritized eliminating the backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits in the city's crime lab.

On Wednesday, Keller and the Albuquerque Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or SANE, announced the establishment of the Sexual Assault Information Line, which any victim with questions on the status of an investigation into an assault against them can now call.

The number for it is 1-866-613-7245, or 1-866-613-SAIL. Victims can also send an inquiry to the email address kitinfo@abqsane.org.

SANE will manage the information line.

Charitable Foundations Chart Course For Early EducationAssociated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers are getting a preview of a business plan for expanding early childhood education across the state that was developed by a group of major charitable foundations.

The plan seeks to expand state spending by $16 million each year to gradually expand and improve the workforce for prekindergarten, childcare and home visits with families and infants.

An outline was presented Wednesday to members of the Legislative Finance Committee who draft the state budget.

The plan calls for a new cabinet-level position in state government or early childhood "czar," and would provide publicly funded kindergarten to 80 percent of 4-year-olds.

Behind the investment project is the New Mexico Early Childhood Funders Group that consists of the Thornburg Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation and others.

Lawmakers Review Criminal-Fighting Progress, ShortfallsAssociated Press

Statistics showing a recent decline in crime overall in New Mexico's largest city have spurred questions among state lawmakers as to what's working within the criminal justice system to help reverse years of rising crime rates and what still needs to be fixed.

Analysts for the state's Legislative Finance Committee presented lawmakers with figures Wednesday, showing crime in almost all categories declining significantly in March compared with a peak in August.

Only the number of murders has increased in Albuquerque in the comparison between months.

Analysts say crime overall has increased by about 60 percent in Albuquerque since 2010. In that time, they also note, the poverty rate, drug overdose death rate, and number of families receiving public assistance has increased, while the percent of the population in the labor force has declined.

New Mexico Supreme Court Invalidates VetoesAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ordered that 10 bills vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2017 go into effect anyway because the governor failed to provide an immediate explanation or her reasoning to lawmakers as required by the state constitution.

The court decision Wednesday resolves a year-long dispute over the extent of the governor's veto authority. In oral arguments, attorneys for the Democratic-led Legislature said Martinez made it difficult or impossible to respond to her concerns about proposed legislation or to move forward with an override vote.

A state district court opened the way for the disputed bills to become law in September. The vetoed bills sought to expand access to high-speed internet, open the way for industrial hemp research programs and allow high school students to count computer science classes toward core math credits needed for graduation.

The Republican governor previously said the Legislature was overstepping its authority in challenging the vetoes. Attorneys for the governor say lawmakers eventually received written explanations for five of the contested vetoes, leaving enough time to revise the bills or attempt an override vote.

Authorities Arrest Pecos High School Coach On Sex ChargesAssociated Press

An assistant basketball coach at a New Mexico high school has been arrested on charges that he engaged in sexual acts with two teenage students.

New Mexico State Police say 29-year-old Dominick Baca was arrested Tuesday in Pecos and charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual penetration and sexual contact of a minor by school personnel.

According to charging documents, the Pecos High School assistant coach had sexual encounters with a 14-year-old girl in February 2017 and a 17-year-old girl from February to March of this year.

Court records don't list an attorney for Baca who could comment on the allegations.

School Superintendent Fred Trujillo says Baca was placed on administrative leave more than two weeks ago.

Congressional Baseball Practice Revives Memory Of ShootingAssociated Press

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is returning to the baseball diamond to prepare for a congressional charity game the year after a gunman opened fire on a practice session for Republican lawmakers.

The Republican congressman said Wednesday's baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, took place under a drizzle. Pearce says he remains grateful to Capitol and local police who killed a gunman that had opened fire on June 14, 2017, at the same park.

As he runs for governor of New Mexico, Pearce says he is focused on improving school security and police responses to mass shootings, rather than gun control efforts that involve constitutional hurdles.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was severely wounded in the 2017 attack and spoke this week about his ambitions to return to baseball after more rehabilitation.

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