States Support City In Ten Commandments Case, Dust Storm Causes Fatal Crash

Aug 11, 2017

Coalition Of States Files Brief In Ten Commandments Case - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A coalition of nearly two dozen states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is stepping into a dispute in northwestern New Mexico over a Ten Commandments monument.

Paxton and attorneys general from 22 states are supporting city leaders in Bloomfield, New Mexico, who are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a lower court ruling requiring the removal of the display from the lawn outside City Hall.

The coalition filed its brief Thursday.

Paxton argues that governments shouldn't be forced to censor religion's role in history because some people are offended.

Attorneys representing Bloomfield filed a petition with the court in July to have the case heard. They say guidance from the Supreme Court is needed because various lower courts are using different standards to evaluate whether such monuments are permissible.

Court Dismisses Records Complaint Against New Mexico AGAssociated Press

A district judge has dismissed a complaint filed by former New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera over a public records dispute with the state attorney general's office.

Judge Sarah Singleton issued her ruling this week, ending a legal fight that stemmed from a request for public records Herrera had sought about two people she fired while in office in 2010. Those employees later filed whistleblower lawsuits.

Herrera's complaint accused Attorney General Hector Balderas' office of violating the Inspection of Public Records Act by missing a deadline for responding to the request.

Herrera's attorney had accused the office of playing games by contending that it never received emails asking for the information.

The office argued that the attorney had mistyped the email address and the request was never received.

New Mexico Land Office Goes After Texas 'Dirt Bandits'Associated Press

The New Mexico State Land Office is going after a West Texas county after it was learned that loads of dirt, sand and gravel were disappearing from a parcel of state trust land along the border.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says an investigation found that Hudspeth County crews have been using material from the site for road improvements. Mining at the site appears to have started a few years ago.

He says the dirt bandits have been using a dusty byway from Hudspeth County to access the site in southern New Mexico.

The State Land Office has owned the mineral and surface rights on the property since 1958, so Dunn is asking Hudspeth County that all mining stop until New Mexico is compensated for the resources that have been taken and a mining lease is issued.

Mayor Hopefuls In Albuquerque Share Police Reform Plans - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A police oversight board established after a federal investigation into police brutality in New Mexico's largest city has heard reform ideas from mayoral candidates.

Hopefuls seeking to become Albuquerque's next mayor told the board Thursday their plans to continue efforts to revamp the Albuquerque Police Department.

Candidates promised to comply with federal court-ordered police reforms and replace current Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden.

A lengthy 2014 review by U.S. Department of Justice identified a "culture of aggression" within Albuquerque police. The report faulted the department for using unreasonable force with those suffering mental illness.

A federal monitor charged with overseeing the reforms noted in his latest report that Albuquerque police still has issues related to "neck holds, distraction strikes, and 'shows of force'."

Bubonic Plague Detected At Quarai Mission In New MexicoAssociated Press

An animal case of bubonic plague has been detected at the Quarai mission of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico.

Monument staff discovered a dead rock squirrel in the square kiva at the mission on July 11.

A veterinary diagnostic lab says the squirrel tested positive for plague.

Authorities say bubonic plague can be fatal to humans, especially if not caught early enough.

The Epidemiology and Response Division of the New Mexico Department of Health reports 22 animal cases of bubonic plague and three human cases in New Mexico so far this year.

None of the human cases were fatal.

Raytheon's Manufacturing Operations Add Jobs In New MexicoAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says Raytheon's manufacturing operations in Albuquerque is adding 60 new high-tech manufacturing jobs.

Martinez's office says Raytheon's expanded operations will support the development and production of directed energy systems, range monitoring systems, and telemetry systems for U.S. and coalition partners.

The newly created jobs will include program management positions, engineering and other technical jobs.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Raytheon will get nearly $1.3 million in state and local funds to help its expansion through the Local Economic Development Act. The Albuquerque City Council must still approve the $425,000 that is the city’s portion.

Acquired by Raytheon in 2011, the Albuquerque site currently supports the production of high-powered microwave directed energy technology and aircraft range monitoring systems.

Nearly 200 employees currently work on site.

Massachusetts-based Raytheon specializes in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions.

Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, sensing, effects and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries.

Lawmaker Says Hospital Fired His Wife Over PoliticsLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A New Mexico state representative is accusing a hospital of firing his wife in response to his request for an audit to look into the recent transfer of the cancer center at the hospital.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Democratic Rep. Rudy Martinez released a statement on Wednesday saying the firing is "the worst kind of petty politics."

Gila Regional Medical Center CEO Taffy Arias says it was a business decision to streamline management at the hospital that resulted in Martinez's wife and several other employees losing their jobs.

Arias says the firing was "absolutely not personal and it absolutely has nothing to do with" Martinez.

Martinez says he filed the audit request to look into the cancer center transfer and ensure it was legal and transparent.

Review: New Mexico's Education Plan Best Out Of 17 ProposalsAssociated Press

An independent review found that New Mexico's five-year education plan was rated the best among the 17 states that submitted plans to the federal government as of late June.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approved the state's plan on Wednesday under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success found New Mexico was the only state to receive the highest marks in the majority of categories — five out of nine. A few of the high marks were in standards and assessments, student success indicators and measures of academic progress.

Christopher Ruszkowski, acting secretary for the New Mexico Public Education Department, said the early approval will create "stability and continuity" during the upcoming school year, which begins Monday.

Dust Storm Causes Fatal Crash Near Arizona-New Mexico LineAssociated Press

A Texas woman died Wednesday after a dust storm on I-10 near the Arizona-New Mexico border caused a car she was in to crash into a semi-truck.

New Mexico State Police say 62-year-old John Hickman and 68-year-old Arlene Matthews of Livingston, Texas, were headed east on I-10 when a dust storm hit, reducing visibility.

Their car rear-ended a commercial truck that had slowed down.

Matthews was pronounced dead on scene and Hickman was transported to a Tucson hospital with serious injuries.

Dust has been an ongoing issue on that stretch of I-10. Much of it is attributed to the arid land and high winds.

Six people died in a 25-vehicle pileup caused by a sudden dust storm in June in the Lordsburg area, 18 miles northeast of the latest crash.

Navajos Ask EPA To Be Flexible On Claims From Mine SpillAssociated Press

The head of the Navajo Nation is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be flexible on the type of documentation it requires from tribal members asking for compensation for damages from a mine spill.

Navajo President Russell Begaye said Wednesday not all members of the tribe kept receipts for the losses they suffered from the 2015 spill from the Gold King Mine in Colorado.

EPA officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The agency inadvertently triggered the spill, which tainted a river on Navajo land in New Mexico. Colorado and Utah rivers were also affected.

The EPA initially said federal law prevented it from paying damages claims. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said last week that some claims would be reconsidered but documentation would be required.

Albuquerque Police Officer Arrested On Suspicion Of DWIAssociated Press

An Albuquerque police officer has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested and accused of driving his police patrol unit while intoxicated.

The Police Department says 28-year-old Joshua Malecki was arrested Wednesday night after his vehicle struck a curb, damaging two left-side tires.

Department spokeswoman Celina Espinoza says the department "is committed to taking swift action in this case" but must follow policy and rules set out in the collective bargaining agreement with the union representing officers.

No phone is listed for Malecki and it's not immediately known whether he has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

Malecki has been with the department since November 2010.