State Auditor Joins Race To Became ABQ Mayor, Outgoing DA Criticizes APD In Scathing Letter

Jan 11, 2017

State Auditor Joins Race To Become Albuquerque's Next MayorThe Associated Press 

State Auditor Tim Keller has entered the race to become Albuquerque's next mayor.

The Democrat made his announcement Wednesday, saying he will seek public financing for his campaign.

An Albuquerque native, Keller said the city is a special place but is facing immense challenges, including some of the highest crime rates in decades. He listed police reforms and economic development as top priorities.

Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis and retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes, an independent, announced their candidacies earlier this week.  They joined Deanna Archuleta, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, retiree Stella Padilla, and entrepreneur and radio host Eddy Aragon.

Mayor Richard Berry has said repeatedly he won't seek re-election to a third term. This year's race is the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

Outgoing DA Criticizes Albuquerque Police In Scathing Letter – The Associated Press

The outgoing Bernalillo County District Attorney compared the Albuquerque Police Department to a criminal enterprise in one of her final acts in office.

Kari Brandenburg wrote in a farewell letter to the U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, released Tuesday, that the police department is affected by widespread corruption and is unwilling to change.

APD Chief Gorden Eden released a statement Tuesday saying his officers work tirelessly for the community and that all of Brandenburg's allegations are baseless. He says he looks forward to developing a productive relationship with new Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, who took office Jan. 1.

Study: Facebook Data Center Could Net $2B in Economic ImpactThe Associated Press, The Albuquerque Journal

A study done by a consulting firm for the village of Los Lunas estimates nearly $2 billion in fiscal and economic impacts from Facebook's new data center over 10 years.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the study by California-based David Taussig & Associates came out in December, more than a month after Facebook broke ground.

The study focused on whether the project was expected to generate enough revenues for Los Lunas to offset funding provided through the state Local Economic Development Act.

The study didn't address the cost of water rights or additional infrastructure needed for the data center.

Among the findings, the consultants said if Facebook ends up constructing a total of six buildings, the state could see more than $21 million in revenue for the general fund over a decade.

New Mexico Attorney General Raids District Attorney's OfficeThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General agents have raided the office of a southwestern New Mexico district attorney in connection with a suspected DWI traffic stop.

The Attorney General's office on Tuesday seized documents and a state car driven by Francesca Martinez-Estevez. The search warrant at the Grants Country office is linked to the district attorney's June traffic stop.

Martinez-Estevez, the district attorney for Sixth Judicial District, had faced calls to resign after a video of the traffic stop showed her swerving across several lanes of traffic and stumbling during her conversation with officers.

Two Silver City Police Department officers who didn't conduct field sobriety tests on Martinez-Estevez were later disciplined.

Officers say she nearly ran into an officer's car and another curb as she drove off.

Martinez-Estevez and her attorney did not immediately return phone messages.

Martinez Avoids Criticizing Trump Over No Hispanic Picks The Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor is avoiding attacking President-elect Donald Trump over not appointing a Hispanic cabinet member.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who clashed with Trump during the election, said Tuesday the new president has the right to "the best and the brightest" for his team — even if that means there won't be a Latino in his cabinet.

None of the Trump's cabinet picks are Latinos. The Trump administration could be the first one in three decades not to have a Hispanic cabinet secretary.

Martinez had been part an initiative with the Republican Party to recruit more Hispanics and women to run for office. She openly clashed with Trump for his comments about Mexican immigrants.

FBI: Bodies of Two Women, Three Kids Found on New Mexico PuebloThe Associated Press

Five bodies have now been found on a Native American pueblo on the outskirts of Albuquerque, but authorities said Tuesday that foul play was not suspected in the deaths.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said the recovered bodies appear to be two women and three children listed Saturday in an Albuquerque Police Department missing person's bulletin.

"Autopsies are pending to determine the cause of each death, but foul play by another party is not suspected at this time," Fisher said in a statement Tuesday night, adding that the Office of the Medical Investigator will attempt to identify the bodies.

Authorities have said sisters Vanessa George, 25, and Leticia George, 20, of Albuquerque were missing, along with Vanessa George's two children — 4-year-old Zoe Becenti and 1-year-old Chloe Becenti — plus Leticia George's 1-year-old daughter.

Fisher said the body found Sunday in a rugged area on the Pueblo has been identified by relatives as Leticia George.

A white pickup truck with front-end damage was found abandoned in the area where the bodies were discovered, but Fisher wouldn't speculate if the victims died of exposure.

State Education Department Wants to Shut Down La Promesa Charter School - The Albuquerque Journal

The state’s Public Education Department is looking to close La Promesa charter school in Albuquerque due to financial mismanagement.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the New Mexico Public Education Commission will meet Friday in Santa Fe to consider revoking the K-through-8 school’s charter.

The Education Department took control of La Promesa’s finances in August after state auditor Tim Keller found the school’s founder, Analee Maestas, had doctored a receipt and got reimbursement for work done at her home, not the school.

The department says their audit found further violations and irregularities in the school’s fiscal management.

La Promesa received its charter in 2005 and struggled academically in recent years, falling to an “F”grade during the 2015-2016 school year. Nearly 400 students are enrolled there this year. 

New Mexico Governor Has Plan For Budget Shortfall – The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has a budget plan designed to close the state's funding shortfall and restore depleted reserves while sticking by her vows to avoid tax increases.

Announced Tuesday, the plan preserves funding for economic development and public safety, while extending recent agency spending cuts into next year and deepening those cuts at the Legislature and state universities.

It also would shrink overall compensation to state employees by decreasing pension contributions.

Amid a downturn in the oil sector, New Mexico has nearly exhausted operating reserves and is facing a $67 million general fund shortfall.

The governor's plan would hold spending nearly flat at $6 billion next year. The proposal calls for reserves to be replenished by sweeping funds from idle public accounts — including $120 million from public school district reserves.

Fired Workers Point To Retaliation, Sue New Mexico AG – The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Six fired employees are suing New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas over claims that the state's top prosecutor retaliated against them and three dozen of their colleagues after he was elected in 2014.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the lawsuit was filed last week in state district court after workers failed to have their dismissals overturned by the state Personnel Board.

Balderas spokesman James Hallinan says the lawsuit is without merit.

The personnel board said the employees serve at the pleasure of the attorney general. That decision is being appealed in a separate case.

Balderas, who previous served as state auditor, fired about 40 employees after taking over as attorney general.

The lawsuit and the appeal come as Balderas is being mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

Former Paramedic Gets Probation For Taking Dead Man's Wallet – The Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

A former Santa Fe paramedic has been sentenced to probation for stealing a debit card from a man getting treatment and using it to spend more than $11,000 after the patient died.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 32-year-old Michael John Harcharik on Monday was sentenced to a suspended sentence of six years in prison. If he serves probation without incident, he will avoid jail time.

He pleaded no contest on Dec. 15 to identity theft and three counts of violating the Remote Financial Service Act.

Harcharik was arrested in April after Allan Pearson's daughter noticed multiple purchases on her father's account, including of a riding lawn mower.

Police believe Harcharik stole the card when paramedics went to Pearson's Santa Fe home after he was found unresponsive March 25.