Tuesday News Roundup: No Fraud Charges Against Provider By New Mexico

May 6, 2014

No Fraud Charges Against Provider By New MexicoThe Associated Press

 Attorney General Gary King's office says investigators found about $34,000 in overbillings by a Santa Fe-based mental health provider but nothing to justify bringing fraud charges.

King said in a statement Tuesday there was "no actionable evidence of fraud" by Easter Seals El Mirador.

CEO Mark Johnson said he was not surprised, but he was "absolutely delighted that we've been exonerated."

The organization was among 15 nonprofit providers of mental health services that had Medicaid payments suspended last year by the Human Services Department because of allegations of fraud and mismanagement.

Department spokesman Matt Kennicott said the agency will seek to recover overpayments, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The state contracted with Arizona companies to take over services previously offered by most of the New Mexico nonprofits.


Protests Bring End To City Council Meeting The Associated Press

Albuquerque City Council President Ken Sanchez shut down Monday night's meeting in response to the angry protests of dozens of people.

The council was set to discuss whether the police chief should be chosen by the council or by voters. But the meeting grew heated after about an hour as one man called for Police Chief Gorden Eden's arrest.

The crowd then began chanting for the chief to be fired and for Mayor Richard Berry to be recalled.

Sanchez tried to restore order but then gave up and adjourned the meeting.

The meeting came just two days after a fatal police shooting and weeks after a harsh U.S. Justice Department report faulted the Police Department over excessive use of force. Albuquerque police have shot nearly 40 people since 2010.

Water Release Aims To Help Silvery Minnow – The Associated Press

When nature fails to provide, faking it might be the next best option.

Water managers and biologists have come up with a plan they think will trick the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow into spawning this spring.

They started releasing extra water into the Rio Grande on Monday in an effort to mimic spring runoff. The flow out of Cochiti Reservoir is expected to double this week.

Under non-drought-stricken conditions, descent runoff would trigger the tiny fish's reproductive instincts. But that hasn't happened in the last few years thanks to severe drought.

Officials are desperate since the minnow population is now at the lowest level since monitoring began more than 20 years ago.

An exchange among six pueblos and Albuquerque's water utility authority helped make the extra release possible.

GAO Releases Report On Navajo Uranium Cleanup The Associated Press

Federal agencies working to address uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation met most of the objectives outlined in a five-year plan.

But a report released this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows the agencies fell short in two out of the eight objectives.

The GAO says the work schedules for the Northeast Church Rock mine near Gallup and the Tuba City Dump were optimistic and ambitious.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said more time was needed for outreach work and assessment. The agencies say they remain committed to cleaning up the sites but that tens of millions of dollars in federal funds are needed.

A second five-year plan is in the works.

New Mexico Four Corners Seeking Teachers The Farmington Daily Times, The Associated Press

School districts in New Mexico's Four Corners area are going the extra mile to hire new teachers and looking at the mid-West for help.

The Farmington Daily Times reports several school districts in San Juan County have increased recruiting efforts as the number of students graduating from New Mexico teacher education programs has dropped.

For the Farmington district, that has meant sending representatives to Minnesota, Montana and Michigan to recruit teachers.

Officials of the Aztec and Bloomfield school districts report that they face similar recruitment challenges.

New Mexico State University Education College Dean Michael Morehead says the number of graduates from four-year teacher education programs has declined since 2007.

Morehead cites pay and accountability mandates as factors.

1 Killed, 3 Injured In Chopper Crash In New Mexico The Associated Press

One soldier has died and three others were injured when their helicopter crashed during weekend training exercises from a West Texas post.

Sgt. Dwight Burn died when the Chinook helicopter he was in crashed Saturday night near Orogrande New Mexico. Another crewmember and two pilots were injured.

All four soldiers are with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 27-year-old Burn was from Barstow, California.

The soldiers were conducting high-altitude mountainous environment training out of Fort Bliss in El Paso.

Fort Bliss spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Peters said Monday nobody on the ground was hurt.

Two of the injured soldiers were expected to be released, while the other will remain hospitalized.

An investigation of the crash could take up to six months to complete.

Search On For New Mexico History Museum Director The Associated Press

The New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors is looking for a new leader.

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs announced Monday a search committee has opened applications for a successor to former executive director Frances Levine.

In March, Levine left to take over the reins at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.

The director is an appointee of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and is hired by the Secretary of Cultural Affairs.

Officials say the position requires a seasoned professional with a track record of successful leadership of a multidisciplinary museum organization.

Police: Los Lunas Man Shot At Officers 70 Times The Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say a Los Lunas man fired more than 70 rounds at officers before he was shot by police.

Chief Pete Kassetas identified the suspect Monday as 41-year-old Daniel Olguin.

New Mexico State Police say they were called to assist Los Lunas police Friday night after receiving reports of an armed man holed up inside a residence stemming from a domestic dispute.

During the five-hour standoff, police say Olguin came out of his home and put down the rifle. But officers say they fired bean bags when he ran back and grabbed his rifle.

Kassetas says Olguin hit a gas meter when he unloaded his weapon.

Officials say Olguin is listed in critical condition.