State Tax Secretary Resigns Amid Investigation, Facebook Plans to Use NM Subcontractors

Dec 15, 2016

New Mexico Tax Secretary Resigns Amid Investigation – The Associated Press

New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla has resigned after state prosecutors raided agency offices and seized her personal tax filings amid allegations she gave preferential treatment to a former business client.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday accepted the immediate resignation by Padilla.

Martinez said in a statement that she takes any allegations of misconduct seriously and ordered the tax department to cooperate with the investigation by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.

State investigators raided tax agency offices on Wednesday to seize personal and business income tax records for Padilla and her husband.

A search warrant affidavit says interviews with several employees at the tax department suggest that Padilla may have attempted to circumvent an agency audit of a former business client.

Facebook: New Mexico subcontractors will work on data centerThe Associated Press

Facebook says the contractor building a planned data center in the Albuquerque area plans to use at least six New Mexico companies for the project.

A Facebook announcement Thursday says work for the project in Los Lunas is still being arranged so additional companies may be involved. The general contractor is Portland, Oregon-based Fortis Construction Inc.

New Mexico construction leaders previously said subcontractor restrictions for the project likely would disqualify many local companies, but Fortis then said it planned to hire locally.

The project's first phase is expected to take two years to complete and cost $250 million.

Subcontractors announced by Facebook include an elevator company and others that do work in areas such as fire protection, survey consulting and erosion control.

Judge Rejects Claim That Stalled Diocese Bankruptcy Case The Associated Press, The Gallup Independent

A New Mexico diocese is a step closer to resolving its bankruptcy case after a federal judge rejected a claim that had stalled the proceedings.

The Gallup Independent reports that the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament filed a claim against the Diocese of Gallup as it was concluding its Chapter 11 reorganization case.

The bankruptcy plan contains more than $20 million dollars to settle claims filed by 57 alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse. The victims signed off on the settlement in June 2016. 

Attorneys for the diocese say the claim wasn't filed in a timely matter. The Sisters' attorney says the organization did not know of the diocese's bankruptcy case until December 2015, more than two years after its Chapter 11 petition was filed, but the attorneys for the diocese say the Sisters were sent legal notices at the time the claim was filed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma concluded a Monday hearing by disallowing the claim by the Sisters.

New Mexico Legislature Opens Doors To Pre-Filed Bills Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are getting their first opportunity to file bills for consideration ahead of next year's regular legislative session.

The Legislature began accepting "pre-filed" bills on Thursday in advance of a 60-day session.

Lawmakers convene on Jan. 17 to resolve a budget deficit linked a downturn in the oil and natural gas industry and consider a wide variety of policy initiatives. Lawmakers are honing proposals to crack down on reckless driving, increase funding for childhood education and shore up state finances by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana, to name just a few anticipated initiatives.

Democrats will outnumber Republicans 26-16 in the Senate and 38-32 in the House of Representatives. Second-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has yet to unveil her priorities. She has steadfastly opposed any tax increases.

UNM President: Decision to Step Down Was 'Pragmatic' The Associated Press, The ABQ Journal

University of New Mexico President Bob Frank says he agreed to leave office early because of the toll a lawsuit would take on the university.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a statement issued by Frank's lawyer late Wednesday says his agreement to step down Dec. 31 should not be construed as a concession to the Board of Regents, but rather "the most pragmatic move in the long run."

The settlement will allow Frank, who has been president since June 2012, to take a paid sabbatical until his contract expires May 31. He will then begin a faculty appointment at a reduced salary.

UNM on Tuesday announced the agreement between Frank and the regents.

The regents named Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Chaouki Abdallah as acting president.

Native American Network Comes To Albuquerque Airwaves By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

New Mexico PBS has announced it is bringing a California-based television network dedicated to Native Americans to the Albuquerque area.

The station said Wednesday that First Nations Experience now is live on KNME-TV, Channel 5.3, in the Albuquerque area and will feature programs focusing on Native American and indigenous people around the world.

The public TV network known as FNX is a partnership of the San Manuel band of Mission Indians and KVCR-PBS in San Bernardino, California.

It was launched by KVCR-TV in September 2011.

FNX can already be seen by 11 million people in several states, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Minnesota and Illinois.

Mining Company Challenges Method In Colorado Superfund Site Durango Herald, Associated Press

The owner of an inactive gold mine in southwestern Colorado is contesting the way a Superfund site was established after a massive wastewater spill from another mine.

The Durango Herald reported that Sunnyside Gold Corp. filed a petition in federal court saying some properties weren't properly reviewed before they were included.

The petition didn't say which properties were in dispute but promised details in a future filing. The Sunnyside Mine is included in the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency established the Superfund site in September, about a year after the agency triggered a 3-million-gallon spill from the Gold King Mine while doing preliminary cleanup work.

Sunnyside doesn't own the Gold King. The company says it doesn't object to the Superfund listing, but only the way properties were reviewed.

Bernalillo County Board OKs 2 Behavioral Health Initiatives Associated Press

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners has approved two additional behavioral health initiatives that will activate mobile crisis teams and a supportive housing program.

After the board's approval Tuesday night, county officials now will begin to solicit requests for proposals to implement the initiatives.

The housing program will increase supportive housing throughout the county specifically for persons with behavioral health conditions who are homeless.

The mobile crisis teams will respond to individuals experiencing a nonviolent behavioral health crisis that necessitates a 911 response.

The county behavioral health tax will fund the mobile crisis teams in the amount of up to $1 million per year and will begin as a pilot program.

The health tax will fund the housing program for an amount not to exceed $1.2 million annually.

Authorities Investigate McKinley County Jail Death Gallup Independent, Associated Press

McKinley County sheriff's deputies are investigating after a Yatahey man reportedly killed himself while in the county jail.

The Gallup Independent reports that 28-year-old Thomas Yazzie-Joe was found dead in his cell at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center on Friday.

The apparent cause of death is being listed as suicide.

According to sheriff's office, Yazzie-Joe was booked into jail Friday after being arrested on aggravated battery and aggravated assault charges. He was housed in a cell by himself because he acted aggressively and disorderly during the booking process.

When a corrections officer went to check on Yazzie-Joe a few hours after booking, she found him dead in the cell.

New Mexico Completes Inspection Of Federal Nuke Repository Associated Press

New Mexico regulatory officials have completed their inspection of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository as the troubled facility looks to reopen.

State Environment Secretary Butch Tongate says the onsite review covered issues that date back to a 2014 fire involving one of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's mining trucks and a separate radiation leak that forced the repository's closure.

Tongate acknowledged the facility is a critical asset to the nation's security and the state's economy but that regulators need to ensure corrective actions have been taken and violations have been addressed.

Tongate says once the inspectors compile their observations, the state will formally notify repository managers and the U.S. Energy Department of their findings. He did not offer any details of what inspectors noted during last week's visit underground.

Northern New Mexico Village Without Water For 8 Days KOB-TV, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico community is trucking in water as the village works to drill a new well.

KOB-TV reports that village administrators say most people living in Questa haven't had running water for about eight days and those who do are under boil advisory. The village is distributing bottled water for drinking and trucking in water for toilets and laundry.

Officials say they expect water to be restored in about a week.

New Mexico Joins Multistate Law Suit Against Suboxone MakerAlbuquerque Journal

New Mexico has joined a multi-state lawsuit against the manufacturer of Suboxone alleging the company inflated prices artificially and blocked cheaper generic versions.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 42 states are suing Indivior Inc. over the drug, which is used to treat opioid addiction. The state’s Medicaid program paid $9.3 million for Suboxone in 2015 to treat about 33,000 state residents.

New Mexico ranks near the top of the country in opioid overdose rates and state officials say the cost of Suboxone has been rising.

Attorney General Hector Balderas claims Indivior and another company, MonoSol Rx, conspired to change the delivery method for the drug in order to prevent other companies from bringing generics to market.

The two companies deny the allegations.