U.S. Supreme Court Sides With NM Officer, Martinez Has Plans For Budget Shortfall

Jan 10, 2017

Supreme Court Rules For NM Officer in Fatal 2011 Shooting - The Albuquerque Journal

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with a New Mexico State Police officer in a wrongful death lawsuit from 2011.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the high court unanimously ruled yesterday that officer Ray White did not violate the law when he fatally shot a gun-wielding man at his house east of Santa Fe.

A legal expert said the decision could set a precedent, making it more difficult to sue police officers.

The court’s ruling overturns decisions by U.S. District Judge Kenneth J. Gonzales of Albuquerque and the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

New Mexico Governor Has Plan For Budget ShortfallThe 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 AGThe 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 WalletThe 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.

Texas Company Eyes New Oil Waste Facility in New Mexico – The Associated Press, The Hobbs News-Sun

A Texas company is a proposing new oil waste facility in southeastern New Mexico.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Lubbock-based CK Disposal wants to build a 317-acre surface waste oil management plant in eastern Lea County.

The proposed waste management facility is intended for the permanent disposal of exempt and non-exempt/non-hazardous oil field waste. It will include a liquid waste processing area, a possible deep well water injection unit, and a landfill.

New Mexico's Oil Conservation Division was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal this week.

FBI Says it is Processing a Crime Scene on Santa Ana Pueblo – The Associated Press, KOB-TV, The Albuquerque Journal

An FBI investigation on Santa Ana pueblo intensified yesterday after authorities found the bodies of two children and an adult woman on the pueblo. 

KOB-TV reports it remains unclear whether the homicide investigation is connected to the recent disappearance of two adult sisters and their children. Vanessa George, her sister Leticia, and their three children have been missing since Thursday and were believed to be in danger.

The Albuquerque Police said in a missing person flyer that Vanessa George was a victim of domestic violence. Her estranged boyfriend, Murphy Becenti, had previously been arrested for battery against a household member.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the FBI has not provided the names, genders or ages of the deceased. The FBI has not said whether the two cases are related. 

New Mexico Highlands University Names New Provost The Associated Press

New Mexico Highlands University has named a new provost.

The northern New Mexico school announced this week that Roxanne Gonzales has been selected to become its new provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Gonzales recently served as executive dean of Venango College at Clarion University in Pennsylvania.

Clarion University officials say under her leadership, the Venango College faculty and staff grew enrollment in existing credentials in nursing, counseling, the health sciences and other fields.

Her background includes deanships at Clarion University, Regis University in Denver, and Park University in Kansas City, Missouri.

Bill Seeks to Increase Amount of Medical Pot Allowed in New Mexico The Associated Press, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A lawmaker wants to increase the amount of marijuana that licensed medical-cannabis producers in New Mexico can grow.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the proposal by Democratic Sen. Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque also would increase the amount of marijuana that the program's participants can possess.

The bill would let producers grow up to 1,000 cannabis plants during any three-month period.

Currently, a producer can have 450 plants.

The proposal also would allow program participants possess up to 5 ounces of marijuana during a 30-day period.

They are now allowed to possess 8 ounces during a 90-day period.

Officials said in November that the number of participants had grown from 18,600 to nearly 33,000 in a year's time.

The large patient volume also has strained supplies.

New Mexico Rekindles Efforts to Reinstate Death Penalty The Associated Press

A Republican state lawmaker in New Mexico is reviving efforts to reinstate the death penalty as an option for convicted killers of police, children and corrections officers.

Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque has pre-filed a bill that would bring back punishment by lethal injection to New Mexico. A spokesman for GOP Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday she supports the measure.

A similar bill was approved by the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives in October during a special legislative session, but never taken up by the Senate. Democrats retook majority control of the Legislature in November elections.

Last year's proposal became fodder for election-season mailers accusing Democratic candidates of being weak on crime. Leading Democratic lawmakers including Senate majority leader Peter Wirth say they are disinclined to take up the legislation.