Thursday News Roundup: Police Promote Commander In 'Excessive Force' Case

May 15, 2014

Police Promote Commander In 'Excessive Force' Case   -  The Associated Press

Albuquerque police have promoted a commander who was accused in a lawsuit of burning off part a homeless man's ear with a stun gun.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden announced Thursday he was promoting two Albuquerque commanders to the newly created rank of major in response to a harsh U.S. Justice Department report critical of Albuquerque police's use of force.

Eden says Foothills Area Commander Timothy Gonterman and Criminal Investigations Commander Anthony Montano will now oversee the East and West Side Field Services Divisions respectively.

In 2006, a federal jury awarded a former homeless man $300,000 and found that Gonterman and two other officers used "excessive force" in the man's 2002 arrest.

The lawsuit said Gonterman gave the man second and third-degree burns with his stun gun.

The man's lawyer says he lost part of his ear from burns.


PED Must Comply With Special Education Funding Requirements - The Santa Fe New Mexican

The state Public Education Department has been told by a federal judge that it cannot reduce funding for special education programs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Office of Hearing and Appeals Judge Richard O’Hair said he was not persuaded by the state’s proposal to reduce base spending levels for special education programs.  

New Mexico’s special education funding fell below federal mandates in 2010 and 2011.  The state received a waiver for the low recession level spending for 2010, but not 2011.  That could mean a $34 million dollar cut in federal funding for the program.  

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will now review the situation and issue a decision about federal funding.  

Kirtland Air Foce Base Says It Will Meet Deadlines for Fuel Spill Clean Up - The Albuquerque Journal

Kirtland Air Force Base has announced its pilot program will meet deadlines to begin clean up of a decades old underground fuel spill.

The Albuquerque Journal reports officials say the interim clean up measure will begin by July 1st and will pump air into the contaminated aquifer in order to drive fuel gases to the surface where they will be vacuumed out and burnt off.

If the project is successful, more wells will be drilled along the edge of the contamination plume to stop its spread.  

Critics say the efforts to remove carcinogenic chemicals that are spreading in the aquifer under southeast Albuquerque are too little too late.

It’s estimated that between 6 million and 24 million gallons of fuel oil leaked from a pipe at Kirtland over decades.  It was discovered in 1999.

Albuquerque Weighs Social Media Rules For Workers - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque is considering a new social media policy that would impose restrictions on online activity of employees even when they're not working.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that one provision says city employees, volunteers and other city representatives must "share only personal and non-work related opinions and information" if they use social media personally.

Another prohibits "insulting, abusive or offensive communications" regardless of whether the person is on or off duty.

According to Human Resources Director Vincent Yermal, Albuquerque doesn't want to police what people say on Facebook. Yermal says the city wants to ensure that its personnel aren't sexually harassing others or violating other common-sense standards.

Union representatives say the proposal is too broad, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says is unconstitutionally vague.

New Mexico Legislator Apologizes To Candidates  - The Associated Press

An Hispanic state legislator is apologizing to two legislative candidates in Democratic primary races for referring to them in in ethnic terms and deriding their character in an email to fellow Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque says he used inappropriate language regarding Jim Danner of Belen and Teresa Smith de Cherif of Los Lunas.

Garcia's email to other Democrats about primary races referred to Danner and Smith de Cherif as "Democratic Anglo newcomer opponents" with large egos and big mouths.

Garcia says he apologized because he was wrong to question their character and because he didn't take what he called the "moral high ground" on matters involving bigotry and discrimination.

Both Danner and Smith de Cherif say Garcia called them and that they accepted his apologies.

Rio Grande Minnows Spawn Thanks To Extra Flows - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

Efforts to trick the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow into spawning appears to have worked.

Managers started releasing extra water into the Rio Grande last week to mimic spring runoff. The extra flows trigger the tiny fish's reproductive instincts to spawn.

Officials at the Albuquerque BioPark tell the Albuquerque Journal that some eggs have been collected and will be used at hatcheries to help sustain the minnow's dwindling population.

Despite releasing thousands of hatchery-raised minnows into the river each fall, the population is at its lowest level since monitoring began more than 20 years ago.

An exchange among Native American pueblos and Albuquerque's water utility authority helped make the release of water possible.

Water managers say flows will be slowly reduced through the river's Albuquerque stretch beginning Thursday.

NM Wildlife Officers Seize Hundreds Of Trout - The Associated Press

The state Department of Game and Fish has seized more than 1,600 rainbow trout from a man in eastern New Mexico.

Authorities say Bounchanh Bounsombath was arrested Monday after officers served a search warrant at a home in Clovis. The 62-year-old Bounsombath told officers he caught all the fish at the Green Acres Lake and Denis Chaves Pond in northwest Clovis.

Under state rules, licensed anglers can catch and keep up to five rainbow trout per day and may have up to 10 trout at their home.

The bust was the result of an anonymous tip made through the agency's Operation Game Thief hotline.

Game officials say they have never encountered such a case before.

The department regularly stocks rainbow trout at Green Acres and Denis Chaves to provide local fishing opportunities.

NM Game Commission To Choose Agency Director - The Associated Press 

The New Mexico Game Commission has a packed agenda that includes the selection of the next director of the Game and Fish Department.

The commission is meeting today in Albuquerque. It will have to choose from four wildlife management officials who are vying to become the department's top administrator.

The new director will oversee a department with a $38 million yearly budget and more than 300 employees.

Jim Lane resigned as director last year. The department has remained tightlipped about his departure.

Governor To Allow Time Off For Teacher Conferences The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed an executive order that will allow state workers to take time off to attend parent-teacher conferences.

The governor signed the order yesterday and urged other local government agencies and private employers to make similar accommodations for their workers.

Martinez says parents are the best partners teachers can have and she wants to encourage parents to be as engaged as possible in their children's education.