Thu, 17 December 2015
Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran has issued a written public apology to comply with part of her sentence in a campaign finance scandal. She distributed the letter for publication in media outlets on Wednesday as part of a sentence that includes 30 days in jail. The 60-year-old former state senator wrote that her transgressions were "not borne out of greed but rather a result of very tragic personal circumstances which led to some very poor decisions." Duran has pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and money laundering charges involving the use of campaign donations to fuel a gambling addiction.
New Mexico's attorney general letter says he's "concerned" 15 percent of employees in the state's largest school district don't have background checks on file. Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote in letter to Albuquerque Public Schools on Wednesday that district officials should work quickly to conduct background checks on 2,270 employees. Balderas says the district should try to get the checks done before the district's May 2016 deadline. In August, Balderas announced he would look into why Albuquerque Public Schools' safety protocols were breached and former administrator Jason Martinez was hired before a background check was completed. Martinez resigned abruptly after it surfaced he was facing sexual assault on a child charges in Colorado. The scandal forced superintendent, Luis Valentino, to resign just weeks into his new job.
State regulators have adopted a plan that calls for closing part of a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that serves customers across the Southwest. The 4-1 vote by the Public Regulation Commission came Wednesday after years of public meetings, protests and legal challenges that reached the highest courts in New Mexico. The debate has centered on how the utility that runs the San Juan Generating Station plans to replace the lost capacity. Public Service Co. of New Mexico says a mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas and solar power would be most economical option for ratepayers. Some environmentalists had pushed for the closure of the entire plant and for more renewable energy to be added to the grid. Under the plan, the utility says customer rates will increase by about $10 a year starting in 2018. For KSFR’s report live from the PERA building at yesterday’s meeting, visit KSFR.org.
A week after Santa Fe City Council received a report that unlicensed vacation rentals cost the city 2 million dollars a year in lost tax revenue, one licenseddowntown vacation rental business is suing the global short-term rental service Airbnb. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Bruce Kuehnle, owner of a business that maintains 30 short-term rental units in Downtown Santa Fe, has filed a complaint in state District Court. His case has been assigned to Judge Raymond Ortiz. Kuehnle’s complaint says that Airbnb’s flouting of city ordinances, requiring licenses, inspections and lodger’s taxes for rentals, has cost his business money. Kuehnle is suing to prevent Airbnb from renting unlicensed properties within the City Different, and for monetary damages for himself and other operators of licensed rentals in Santa Fe. Airbnb has agreements in place in other cities where taxes are required for short-term rentals, and has told Santa Fe officials that it would be willing to pursue such an agreement here. Airbnb has declined to comment on Kuehnle’s lawsuit.
The president of Albuquerque's police union has resigned from her leadership post after authorities say she abused a teenage relative. Stephanie Lopez was arrested last week on charges of child abuse and bribery or intimidation of a witness. Lopez, who is 40, is a patrol officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. The department placed her on paid administrative leave after her arrest. Lopez has pleaded not guilty to charges.
The accomplice in an Arizona prison break that preceded the killings of an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico has lost her appeal. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a trial judge's ruling that federal prosecutors didn't violate Casslyn Welch's plea agreement. That agreement led to her being sentenced to 40 years in prison. Welch helped three Arizona prisoners escape from the Kingman prison in August 2010. She and two of the prisoners were charged in the carjacking killings of Linda and Gary Haas of Tecumseh, Oklahoma at a rest stop in Quay County, New Mexico. Welch argued that prosecutors broke an oral promise to not oppose a 20-year sentence for her, but prosecutors said no such promise was made. The appeals court cited Welch's written plea agreement and said any alleged oral promises were unenforceable.
A nationwide warrant has been issued for a Sunland Park man who failed to return to jail after being let out on furlough. Dona Ana County Sheriff's officials say 27-year-old Christopher Fuentes was released on furlough on Dec. 7. According to the conditions of his furlough, he was scheduled to return the following day by 9 p.m. Authorities say Fuentes was awaiting trial on charges of battery on a peace officer, assault on a household member, resisting or obstructing and disorderly conduct.
And now these national stories:
Members of the House Oversight Committee are set to press administration officials on what safeguards are in place to ensure that would-be extremists are not exploiting a variety of legal paths to travel to the United States. The committee is expected to focus heavily Thursday on how the government uses social media posts in vetting applications from U.S.-bound foreigners and what clues may have been missed when San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik was given a visa. FBI Director James Comey says Malik and her husband used private, direct social media messages to discuss jihad and martyrdom as far back as 2013. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also denies reports that officials at his department were secretly barred from examining social media as part of the vetting process.
And the weather in Santa Fe: Mostly sunny today, with a high of 29 degrees; the wind chill however could make it feel as cold as -4. Tonight, partly cloudy, with an overnight low around 14 degrees. Tomorrow, sunny and warmer, with a high around 39 degrees.