Morning Word: Balderas orders special audit of Bernco Treasurer's Office
Rael in for governor and the rest of NM's news...
November 14, 2013, 8:00 am
- State Auditor Hector Balderas says the Bernalillo County Treasurer may have broken the law. Of course it's KRQE with the story:
Balderas, in an interview this week with KRQE, said the auditors’ findings will be released next week. Balderas would not discuss specifics, but said he has seen enough red flags to take an unusual next step: He’s ordering a rare “special audit investigation” that will look more deeply into how the Treasurer’s Office operates, including the way Padilla and Ortiz buy and sell Treasury bonds and other securities that comprise the county’s $300 million investment portfolio.
- The Albuquerque Journal has the story as well.
- Lawrence Rael is in for a gubernatorial run, surprising approximately no one. Steve Terrell:
“I’m going to announce,” Rael -- a Democrat and longtime government administrator who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010 -- said. “We’re heading in that direction. It will be pretty soon. I’m just making calls and talking to people.”
- Just 172 New Mexicans were able to get insurance through the federal health care exchange. However, a total of 3,552 New Mexicans were deemed eligible for Medicaid or CHIP funding after going on the exchange.
- A researcher for the libertarian Manhattan Institute says holding back third graders who are not proficient in reading helped education in that state.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said Winters contradicted his own findings when he told reporters that retention was the factor behind academic gains. The research showed students doing better but it did not break down whether it was because they were held back, that they received extra help or a combination of the two, he said.
Republican Sen. Pat Woods, a former school board member from Broadview, had a similar assessment.
- Attorney General Gary King's argument on keeping the behavioral health audit secret is “a terrifying proposition” according to an attorney representing New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News which are seeking the release of the audit.
The AG’s argument would enable government officials to keep otherwise public documents from the public simply by passing them on to law enforcement agencies, McElhinney wrote.
“That could lead to unprecedented and unforeseen secrecy in New Mexico state government,” he wrote. “There is no public record that would be safe from exemption.”
- Milan Simonich continues to dog Gary King and his controversial New Mexico Animal Cruelty Tax Force. King finally released emails related to the task force.
King’s reluctance was understandable if you knew anything about the brutal pack of raiders who operated as the Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Task Force.
Terri Cole, at the time the president of the open government group the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government considered honoring King with an award.
An Albuquerque woman named Marcy Britton filed a public records request for King’s emails way back in June 2009. She said she was convinced that King’s task force was trampling constitutional rights and running roughshod over ranches owned mostly by Hispanics.
- Democratic candidate Matthew McQueen says he intends to run against new state Rep. Vickie Perea in House District 50. Perea is the replacement for Rep. Stephen Easley, who passed away earlier their year. Perea is a Republican in a solid Democrat district but Gov. Susana Martinez, also a Republican, chose Perea as the replacement.
"Despite the governor's decision to appoint a right-wing politician that is more in line with her own agenda than the district's values, I am ready to offer the residents of House District 50 the independent leadership that they have consistently chosen in the past," he said.
He promised to "provide the residents of House District 50 with an independent voice equal to that of the late Rep. Stephen Easley ..."
- Albuquerque Business First caught up with Richard Berry at the State of the City address.
- Santa Fe approved an annexation that will add 13,000 residents and 4,100 acres to the city. This won't (and I checked) put Santa Fe above Rio Rancho in terms of population for the third-most populous city.
- Gov. Susana Martinez is staying out of the proposed abortion ban in Albuquerque despite a photo of her with Operation Rescue's Bud Shaver.
- Mid-Heights Messenger spoke to Micaela Cadena, the policy director at Young Women United in Albuquerque, about her efforts to defeat the proposed abortion ban. The vote happens in less than a week. A spokesman for the governor's office says that Martinez did not know who Bud Shaver was before taking the photo. Operation Rescue wrote that Shaver and his wife had an "encouraging meeting" with Martinez in September of 2011.
- The CEO of the State Lottery was terminated by state lottery officials.
- AFSCME interviewed five of the six Santa Fe mayoral candidates.
- New Mexico's energy secretary was in Farmington and spoke to oil and gas executives about a new state energy policy.
Dave Martin, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, sat with T. Greg Merrion, president of Merrion Oil and Gas, and others and listened to the concerns and suggestions of local people involved in coal, natural gas, crude oil and energy production. It was the first stop in a tour that will include Hobbs, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque. During those other stops, topics of discussion will include energy efficiency, renewable energy and biofuels.
"All-of-the-above will produce more jobs," Martin said of including renewable energy. "A lot of these things are going to be region specific."
- Another coyote killing contest. But this one's for charity!
- The League of Women Voters wants to overhaul the city charter commission proposal process to shine more light on it.
- The Rio Rancho Observer reports on the job cuts coming to Intel in Rio Rancho.
Intel spokeswoman Natasha Martell Jackson said Tuesday the first phase was a voluntary separation, with the company offering retirement packages to qualified employees or helping employees find positions at other Intel sites.
She would not say how many employees chose that option, but did say the company has entered into a second phase: It has selected an undisclosed number of employees and is now offering to assist them in finding another job, either at Intel or elsewhere, for up to two months.
- UNM Hospital employees are protesting mandatory flu shots and low pay.
After flu shot clinics opened in September, hospital employees were sent a memo informing them that flu vaccinations would be mandatory this year.
As a response, UNMH employees and members of District 1199 NM, a local union for health care employees, filed a complaint to the UNM Labor Board on Thursday. The union is not against the shot, but believes the terms should have been coordinated with the union because it is a change in contract.
- Charities in Santa Fe are having to pick up the slack after cuts to federal food stamp programs leaves families in a lurch.
- Governor Martinez wants $1.5 million to help grow the state's health care workforce in rural and underserved areas.
- The city of Clovis drafted a synthetic marijuana ban but it can't be as strict as supporters wish.
The ad-hoc committee after 90 minutes moved on an ordinance drafted by Richards outlawing the sale, display for sale, attempt to sell, giving, barter, delivery, possession or use of synthetic drugs.
But Richards and elected city officials warned that the city’s highest possible penalty is a $500 fine and 90 days in jail upon conviction, and that conviction could prove difficult.
- Alamogordo is likely going to seek $1.5 million for a mobile desalination plant.
According to an agenda report, the city commission, should it approve the measure, will seek $1.5 million from the New Mexico Finance Authority -- specifically, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund -- to use on a mobile desalination facility.
- Costco fronted Sunland Inc. $20 million for peanuts before the company declared bankruptcy. Now Costco wants the peanuts.
Lawyers for Costco and CoBank of Denver said about $12.5 million was placed in an escrow account in an attempt to ensure farmers and growers got paid for their peanuts.
Lawyers for Costco say most of the peanuts Costco fronted millions to buy in February remain in storage around Portales and Costco wants them back.
- The state of New Mexico approved $22.5 million in energy efficiency incentives from PNM that will slightly raise rates.The PRC voted 3-2 on Nov. 6 to approve programs proposed by PNM, which will add between 34 and 36 cents per month to the average residential customer’s bill next year, said PNM spokeswoman Susan Sponar.
“Currently, 2.172 percent of PNM’s annual revenue goes toward energy-efficiency programs, which amounts to about $1.49 per month for the average residential customer,” she said. “Under the programs now approved for next year, that will climb to 2.6 percent, or about $1.84 per month for the average customer.”
- The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners gave new county manager a two year contract for $130,000 annually. Being a city/county manager is a well-paying gig.
- A resolution by Santa Fe mayor David Coss, under his position as chairman of the Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities, didn't get the most enthusiastic reaction.
- The Rio Rancho Observer spoke to UNM West's CEO about the Rio Rancho branch of UNM.
- Santa Fe residents get internet at half the speed as those in Albuquerque. A plan to improve this has floundered, however.
- The owner of an Albuquerque construction company and his son plead guilty to defrauding a federal program that looked to help businesses owned by veterans.
Max R. Tafoya, 63, the owner M.R. Tafoya Construction Inc., and Tyler Cole, 41, were charged last year in an indictment alleging that the two men obtained almost $11 million in federal contracts by falsely claiming that Tafoya’s company was qualified to participate in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Program, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough.
- Presbyterian's Rust Medical Center received a national design award. I only mention this because my dad had to go there for what was a migraine (he's fine) and he said it was so well-run that he wanted to stay an extra night (he didn't really want to stay an extra night).
- There are 32 confirmed cases of whooping cough at La Cueva. Vaccinate your children!