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UPDATED: Vanished

Report says emails, hard drives and documents destroyed under DA leadership of close Susana Martinez associate

Local NewsTuesday, September 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath

Emails, hard drives and documents vanished under the leadership of one of Gov. Susana Martinez’ close associates, according to an investigation released Tuesday by the Third Judicial District Attorney in Las Cruces, and those are just preliminary findings of a probe that’s already ensnared the governor herself.

Democratic District Attorney Mark D’Antonio says a request made to his office under the Inspection of Public Records Act in April by the Democratic Party of New Mexico spurred an investigation into why emails and computer hard drives went missing under his predecessor, Republican Amy Orlando, the beneficiary of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from political action committees associated with the governor during her 2012 race against D’Antonio. 

Martinez appointed Orlando as the Third Judicial District Attorney when she took the governorship 2011, but Orlando went on to lose the election to D’Antonio, a former federal law enforcement official, in an unusually heated race.

D’Antonio released emails showing Orlando attempting to prevent his incoming administration from obtaining federal grant money. The office supervisor, according to the report, tells Orlando that the incoming D’Antonio administration will receive between $200,000 and $300,000 in grant money from what appears to be the US Department of Justice’s Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative. Orlando urges the supervisor in a November 12, 2012 email to engage “in a conspiracy to actively deny Dona Ana County and related law enforcement agencies with much needed grant money,” says D’Antonio’s report. 

"Don't leave ANY notes about how to do it!!" Orlando asks the employee, referring to the grant. "Please."

“You know if I end up staying there he will make me do it,”  replies Robin Bruck, the supervisor, in a reference to the incoming D'Antonio administration. 

Another email shows a conversation between Orlando and the financial specialist in the office, Kandi Calzada, in which Calzada tells Orlando that she had to forge Martinez' signature on hotel bills. 

In another 2010 email, Orlando writes to other DA officials that “I need the people that have access to my calendar changed.”

“And we will need to say that a virus or something happened,” she says, which D’Antonio’s report says shows that “Ms. Orlando suggests that her employees should  blame the change on a fictitious virus or another lie.”

D’Antonio says he hasn’t leveled any criminal charges, and his office is still investigating more missing emails. Martinez’ campaign, her office and Orlando all have not returned requests for comment. "This inquiry was not a criminal investigation and its findings and conclusions do not make any claims of criminal wrongdoing," says the report.

D'Antonio tells SFR it would be unethical for the DA's office to investigate itself for criminal activity. 

Secretly monitored

These were the few emails investigators could retrieve from hard drives stored in the office. Other hard drives were missing, says the report, leaving investigators “to conclude that the hard drives containing the stored emails had been removed from the office and/or destroyed by the prior administration.” 

Investigators in D’Antonio’s office even had to solicit help from the FBI computer forensics lab, which found “no email files” after analyzing hard drives that had been left behind from Orlando’s administration. 

“Of the few file folders that were located by investigators,” says the report, “it was determined that the folders belonging to Ms. Orlando had all been erased, with the exception of very few ‘sent’ files,” which are harder to delete." 

The emails quoted here were among the sent files.

Investigators also unearthed evidence of what the report characterizes as “massive shredding of documents just before the change in administration.” 

A senior investigator in the office, Aaron ‘Kip’ Scarborough, instructed an IT supervisor to not repair 16 security cameras in the office that had been inoperable for a month, according to the report.

The report also says IT employees  found “irregularities” in the office’s computer network, including keystroke monitoring software, and email cloning software “that would duplicate any email sent or received without the author’s knowledge, on certain office computers.”

"In addition to the missing emails,” says D’Antonio’s report,  “information was uncovered that showed that employees were being secretly monitored and that the previous administration was trying to make the transition difficult.”

The state Democratic Party’s IPRA request asked for communications involving Scarborough, the senior investigator in the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office during Martinez’ tenure there, among other correspondence related to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. 

The party’s records request followed reports published by Mother Jones and SFR that questioned whether Martinez’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign unlawfully accessed law enforcement databases to run license plate numbers of suspected Democrats on the gubernatorial campaign trail, which would constitute a federal crime punishable by prison time, fines or both.

For more than a year, SFR has been investigating those allegations, and after numerous records requests made by SFR, Martinez’ Department of Public Safety said it “purged” records related to queries made in one FBI database, called the National Criminal Information Center. 

Last spring, Orlando took the position as the top lawyer for DPS—which is responsible for maintaining records that show use of that database. 



Final Administrative Investigative Report by justinhorwath

The Satanic Lawsuit

Do Satanists have religious rights?

Local NewsTuesday, September 23, 2014 by Joey Peters

An inmate at Western New Mexico Correctional Facility is suing the state for allegedly infringing on his freedom to practice his religion. 

His religion? Satanic worship.

Bernard Pritchard is doing time at the prison for "aggressive stalking," according to the New Mexico Corrections Department. In July, he filed a pro se lawsuit—meaning he's representing himself—against the department, Deputy Warden Kathleen Hodges and Chaplain Ron Adams for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights, the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act and his Eighth Amendment rights. 

Pritchard says the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference" and "interference" with his "right to pray and exercise his beliefs and inner faith of Satanic worship." He adds that they've caused "infliction of emotional distress of plaintiff's feelings, acts, experiences of his faith and solitude to what his beliefs are considered to be divine and issues of ultimate concern and occupy a place parallel to that filled by God."

"Defendants denies plaintiff a reasonably [sic] opportunity of pursuing his faith comparable to the opportunity afforded to fellow prisoners who adhere to conventional religious precepts," his lawsuit reads. 

Pritchard is asking for an injunction to practice "Satanic worship" as well as $100,000 "jointly and severally" from his defendants for "emotional injury" and another $20,000 from each defendant for punitive damages. 

Notably, Pritchard's lawsuit fails to explain specifics about how his defendants allegedly infringed his religious rights. Alex Tomlin, a spokeswoman for the department, says prison officials go out of their way to accommodate inmates' abilities to practice their religion. This goes beyond worship services and includes specific accommodations like special foods for those practicing kosher, allowing Muslims to rise early to pray during sunrise and granting sweat lodges for those practicing Native American religions, among many others, Tomlin says. 

"The department respects all religions and the rights of inmates to practice their religions," she says. 

That includes smaller religions like Satanism. But even among Satanists, Pritchard's views appear to be on the fringes. 

The Hell's Kitchen-based Church of Satan is the most widely known and organized branch of Satanism. The Church of Satan does not actually worship Satan, devils, or even profess to believe in their existence. Instead, the church follows atheism and treats Satan as "a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates," according to an essay by Magus Peter Gilmore, identified as the "high priest" of the church.

"I am Satan, the adversary of man's stupidity and ignorance," reads the church's official website. "You are Satan. Satan is not a disembodied entity. Satan is an idea, a myth, a metaphor, an archetype, that personifies something within you and without you. Experiences with Satan hold merit according to each individual's subjective interpretation. If you learned something from your experience with Satan, then it helped you."

This message is at extreme odds with what the church dismisses as "devil worship," otherwise known as theistic Satanism. 

In an email to SFR, Gilmore writes that his church has no members named Bernard Pritchard and that "Satanic worship" and "inner faith" are terms "we Satanists reject...as that concept plays no role in our skeptical philosophy." 

Pritchard is also a registered sex offender in Hobbs for "criminal sexual penetration and contact of a minor," which means he would likely be barred from joining the church, which "has strong rules prohibiting sexual activity with children and non-human animals," according to its website

Regardless, both Gilmore and the New Mexico branch of the American Civil Liberties Union agree that prisoners must be allowed to practice their religions.

"Court cases have established that correctional facilities must make reasonable accommodations for inmates’ sincerely held religious beliefs," says ACLU-NM spokesman Micah McCoy. 

But whether Pritchard can be taken seriously is another matter. 

"If he is affiliated with a devil worshipping group through some website, then I would expect that they would need to supply literature outlining their beliefs and requirements for their adherents' regular practice according to their tenets," Gilmore writes. "Determining the legitimacy of such a group and its precepts and practices might be an aspect of the trial that could prove to be unusual. I would suspect that a prisoner cannot simply invent a set of beliefs and expect to be allowed to follow whatever he assigns as required behavior to such a concoction."

Read the lawsuit below:

A Helping and Hopping Hand

Second Street Brewery and the Santa Fe Conservation Trust partner for a frothy approach to land preservation

Local NewsTuesday, September 23, 2014 by Rob DeWalt

The next time you find yourself enjoying the Dale Ball Trail, the Santa Fe Rail Trail, the pristine view from Arroyo Hondo, or the unfettered, star-studded night skies in and around Santa Fe, perhaps take a moment to reflect on the amount of time, money and hard work (and perhaps a bit of politicking) it takes to keep those treasures safe and sustainable.

Since 1993, the nonprofit Santa Fe Conservation Trust  has been a driving force behind the protection and expansion of our beloved trail systems, wide-open spaces, animal habitats, ranchlands, river corridors and so much more throughout Northern New Mexico.

In tandem with the celebratory tone of the organization’s milestone birthday (almost of legal age!), the trust is launching its 20 Years/20 Dollars fundraising campaign. To sweeten the pot of donations, Second Street Brewery president and master brewer Rod Tweet is getting in on the action with a special brew. Twenty-five cents from each pint sold benefits the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, and Tweet hopes to top sales of at least 20,000 canned pints—and an equal number on draft.

Tweet’s Boneshaker Bitter first arrived on the Santa Fe beer scene last May during the Outside Bike & Brew Festival, and after a meeting with the trust and New Mexico Brewers Guild “beer ambassador” Chris Goblet, Tweet and the nonprofit struck up a promotional/fundraising concept that taps directly into the sensibilities of beer lovers and outdoors enthusiasts alike.

“The Boneshaker was the name given to one of the earliest bicycles,” Tweet tells SFR. “The stiff body and wooden wheel frames made for a bone-shaking ride, to say the least, and that concept seemed to fit in nicely with the inaugural Bike & Brew Festival. I got together with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust to work on the graphic design of the label, and the cans look fantastic.” The Boneshaker beer inside the soon-to-be-available pint cans—also flowing from the taps at Second Street Brewery along that well-traveled Rail Trail and its sister location in the Santa Fe Railyard—is no slouch either.

Rod Tweet, Second Street Brewery's master brewer

Tweet describes the fundraising beer as "medium caramel color, about 5.7 percent ABV [alcohol by volume], with a nice fruitiness from a British yeast strain, and a complex, unusual hop character from earthy East Kent Goldings, citrusy Cascade, and a dry, pine-y evergreen finish from dry-hopping in the fermentor with Citra hops.”

Because the Boneshaker/SFCT promotion is a small-batch run (relatively speaking), Tweet enlisted the help of Albuquerque-based Mother Road Mobile Canning, which travels to the brewery and cans the beers on-site. The company had already been canning Second Street’s one-pint cans of Pivotal IPA. The canning equipment, supplied by Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder, Colo., is unloaded, set up conveyor-belt style and hooked directly to the brewery’s finishing tanks, which negates the necessity to ship “finished” batches of beer to a large canning facility where bulk orders of pre-printed cans can be prohibitively expensive. At Mother Road’s ABQ home base (the company also operates a facility in Springfield, Mo.), a specialized plastic-sleeve contraption wraps the label graphics around the cans, which are then packaged in four-pint bundles with reusable carrying heads clasps.

“It’s much easier to roll out special four-can packs of seasonal or promotional beer when the overhead is lower,” Tweet says. “From a business and donation standpoint, it made sense to use the mobile service for both economic and logistical reasons. Besides, this way the beer stays colder longer and has a more extended shelf life than it would with a refillable growler—as long as you keep it sealed and out of the heat.”

It really is a no-brainer: Buy local beer and help save local land, agricultural treasures, wildlife habitats and night skies. If you’re a teetotaler but still walk on the earth and breathe oxygen, the Santa Fe Conservation Trust also accepts donations. 

 

Get the Goods:
Boneshaker Special Bitter
Second Street Brewery, 1814 Second St., 982-3030
At the Railyard, 1607 Paseo De Peralta, Ste. 10, 989-3278

Gila Hiccup

Former Interstate Stream Commission director says group violated the state Open Meetings Act

Local NewsMonday, September 22, 2014 by Laura Paskus

A former director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, Norman Gaume, announced Monday that he’s planning to sue that agency for alleged violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act, and the action might be enough to create a hiccup for a proposal to divert water from the Gila River.  

In his letter to the commission that gives notice of the pending court action, Gaume says its Subcommittee on the Gila River Diversion Project has been meeting without giving public notice, without publishing its agendas, and without publishing its minutes.

The Interstate Stream Commission has had nearly ten years to decide whether or not to build a diversion on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico.

With just a few months remaining, the commission must let the federal government know by the end of the year what New Mexico plans to do on the Gila. That is, if New Mexico will meet future water demands in four counties—Grant, Luna, Hidalgo, and Catron—through efficiency and conservation or divert the Gila’s waters, build a “New Mexico Unit” of the Central Arizona Project and trade water with the Gila River Indian Community.

It’s all part of a complicated water deal that dates back to the mid-20th century.

An outspoken opponent of plans to build a diversion project on the Gila, Gaume has filed Inspection of Public Records Act requests, criticized the agency’s record of transparency on the Gila, called the engineering plans for diversion “flawed” and refuted the state’s claims over how much water might actually be available from diversions of the river.

Now, Gaume has retained the lawfirm, Egolf + Ferlic + Day to represent him against the commission. Egolf, who is also a Democratic state congressman representing Santa Fe, says the pending lawsuit isn’t related to his work as a legislator.

Egolf says he’s “flabbergasted” that the subcommittee was meeting and making decisions—including issuing contracts—without ensuring its process was transparent and its meetings open to the public. “It’s an amazing violation of the Open Meetings Act of monumental proportion.”

He says now that the commission has been put on notice, it has 15 days to remedy the situation or respond before the complaint hits District Court.

First passed by the state Legislature in 1978, the Open Meetings Act sets the rules for how meetings involving public policies are to be conducted. It states, in part:

In recognition of the fact that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them.

“This is the nuclear bomb option here,” says Egolf of Gaume’s notice of intent to sue. “The law is very clear.”

SFR was unable to immediately reach the ISC spokesperson for comment about the allegations.

Lackluster Gov Forum

Martinez and King talk to VIP crowd at joint appearance

Local NewsMonday, September 22, 2014 by Joey Peters

It's been a putrid campaign season in New Mexico thus far, and by the looks of the first gubernatorial forum between Gov. Susana Martinez and challenger Gary King, things won't be getting better.

The forum might very well have symbolized everything wrong with the state's politics and power structure in recent times.

First, let's take a look at the format. The Albuquerque forum, which moderator Kent Walz took time to explain was "not a debate," came with the sponsorship of no less than 15 business and construction organizations, many of which were listed on the podium like a sick, half-assed cousin of the corporate sponsorships people are used to seeing in sports stadiums or on the uniform of a Nascar driver.

Walz, editor of the Albuquerque Journal, explained that the questions both candidates for the highest office in state government would soon answer were written by the organizations putting on the forum.

Questions from audience members would not be allowed, which didn't so much matter once it was taken to account who most of audience members were. Before the forum began, attendees sitting at the coveted tables near the podium got a chance to introduce themselves, coming from the likes of local law firms and energy companies like PNM.

"In my book, if you're here today, you're a VIP," said Jim Chynoweth, managing director at the Albuquerque offices of real estate marketing company CBRE, shortly before introducing Walz. "So, why don't we give ourselves a round of applause."


Unless you were with media, attendees of the forum had to pay $30 to get in. The timing of the forum, held during the lunch hour on a workday, also wasn't exactly optimal for ensuring public turnout.

Walz read an introduction he says was crafted by each candidate, beginning with Martinez, who he said "turned the largest structural deficit in state history into a surplus while protecting key priorities like classroom spending and basic health care. This was done without raising taxes."

It's a claim that's been constantly repeated by Martinez for years now, and one that's truthfulness has come under heavy scrutiny from some of her Roundhouse colleagues as well as local media

Questions hinged around such topics like Obamacare, "onerous" federal regulations and whether the state should outsource government jobs to the private sector ("What types of jobs could be outsourced?" was the follow-up). Worse yet, both candidates had a chance to see the questions in advance—well in advance.

Martinez, the incumbent Republican, clearly had a prepared answer for each question. King, on the other hand, tended to range on multiple issues in the same response.

"I think that it's actually great that we're here to talk about the No. 1 issue in New Mexico, which is the economy," King, the state's current Attorney General, began in his opening remarks. "And I think though the course of this campaign so far this summer, we've seen a lot of ads on TV, hardly any of them talked about the economy. The one that's most recent talks about a fellow named the Casanova Con Man. And it does have one piece of truth in it and that piece of truth is that he was convicted and sentenced to 34 years. The piece that is missing is that it was my agents, as attorney general, who went and found him in Boston and brought him back to New Mexico and it's my attorney that prosecuted him and put him in prison for 34 years."

King was referring to charges about his office's role in allowing a career con man out of prison nearly three decades early. SFR published an investigation into the dilemma in June and an analysis of his dispute with the Martinez commercials last week.

King continued long-windily: "And the rest of the outcome, not so good. But we fought all the way through the system and made sure he didn't get out early. And so the real reason we have ads like that in campaigns now is because we don't want to talk about the real hard truth in New Mexico. And the real hard truth in New Mexico is that we have the worst economy in the country."

So much for capturing the audience with first impressions. When King talked, he could scarcely be heard. In fact, during the entire forum, both candidates performances felt like they were there out of an obligation rather than a true desire to campaign for the state's highest office. Martinez projected a much more public relations-friendly image during the forum, one that was frankly better suited for the special interests responsible for the event. When the topic of education came up, she lauded the work of her administration's controversial A-F school grading system.

"When I think about what's important, I think about a recent trip I took to Gadsden, which is a high poverty Spanish-speaking school district," Martinez said. "I went to that school, and when we first graded them three years ago, they had one 'A' and the rest were 'D's and 'F's. When I visited them a couple of months ago, there are five 'A' grades and a bunch of 'B's and not a single 'D' or 'F' school in that school district."

Martinez didn't mention that district's six 'C' schools.

"I passed by a child that waves at me and says, 'Miss, I read at 6.2,'" Martinez continued. "I holler back and I say, 'What grade level?' And they'll say, 'the fourth.' And we'll high-five each other, give each other a hug, because they know what it means to read at grade level or above. And that's exactly what we're doing. That's what I mean by education reform."

Martinez declined an invitation to appear with King at the New Mexico Press Association's annual meeting this weekend.

Both candidates, however, are scheduled to attend at least two more debates before November 4. One will be a Spanish language debate on Univison on Oct. 6—Martinez will speak Spanish while King uses an interpreter—and the other will be aired on KOAT-TV on Oct. 19.

Here's to hoping both top today's event.

Public Bank Gets Off the Dime

League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County holds event Tuedsay; Daylong sypmosium is Saturday

Local NewsMonday, September 22, 2014 by Justin Horwath

The proposal to create a public bank to inject cash into Santa Fe’s economy has moved from the mayoral campaign trail to the mayor’s office.

Mayor Javier Gonzales said on the campaign trail that his administration would probe the idea of creating a public bank that would turn taxpayer money into low-interest loans for small businesses.

Now the idea is getting attention in a forum held Tuesday, Sept. 23 by the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County. The forum, says the nonpartisan group, will be a “presentation and educational presentation and discussion of public banking, its possibilities and risks.” It’s at Christus St. Vincent Hospital’s southwest conference room, in the lower entrance near the cafeteria, from 5:30-7:30pm.


Author, playwright and lecturer Craig Barnes, the group says, and state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, “will describe the history and experience of public, or community, banking, and discuss the possible role of public banks in funding public programs.” The two will answer audience questions, says the group, whose sister organization in Vermont is also conducting a study of a public banks there.


Then, a daylong symposium on the topic is planned for Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. That event, hosted by WeArePeopleHere! and the Public Banking Institute, begins at 10:30 am and ends at 9 pm. Gonzales and Barnes are among speakers at the program, whose organizers are charging $40 admission.


In early September, Gonzales' administration floated a bid to “further research the feasibility of establishing a publicly owned bank to help finance community projects, reduce risk to public funds in existing financial markets, and provide better financial returns on public investments.” Proposals were due Sept. 8.


There’s only one public bank in the nation: the Bank of North Dakota, which says it “administers programs that promote agriculture, commerce and industry.”


Tequila and Turmoil

Alfredo Corchado on journalism in the US and Mexico

Local NewsFriday, September 19, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

When Alfredo Corchado talks about freedom of the press, he’s thinking about something with heaver implications than whether the local county commission has an ill-advised backroom meeting. For journalists covering the political and social scene in Mexico, press freedom is literally a life and death issue.

That’s why he threw back a shot of tequila as he kicked off the Lannan Foundation’s speaker series this week at The Lensic. The series continues with speakers including Noam Chomsky and Max Blulmenthal.  

Once part of a 13-member press corp for The Dallas Morning News in Mexico, Corchado is now the paper’s only staffer in its Mexico bureau. He’s recently published a book, part personal memoir and part journalism, called Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness.

“It took a lot of music and a lot of tequila to write this book,” he tells the audience, delivering his laugh line.

It wasn't until he got to the part about the death threat from the cartel that he actually drank the liquid courage on the stage.  

A child of the border region who was born in Durango, Mexico, he then moved with his family to California and later El Paso as a young man. Now living in Mexico again and writing for the American newspaper, Corchado says he’s comfortable straddling the two nations.

“We are the same geography: one blood, two countries, dancing out of step. Two souls still clashing,” he says, reading a passage from the book. He adds later, “I’m not complete unless I’m telling stories in two countries."

While he's covered the narco wars, pervasive violence and the rise of power for the Zetas cartel, the Juarez murders, poverty, several presidents with varying degrees of corruption, and a class system with laws that "only work for the rich," to name just a few topics, Corchado says he's most interested in the stories of hope from the land he loves.

Still, Corchado—who was able to get on a plane when his life appeared in danger—knows that life for reporters in the US is very different from those in parts of Mexico. Storytellers here, he says, must take seriously their obligation to deliver the news about what’s happening south of the border. Too many journalists there have died trying. Reporters with “more protection,” he says, have a responsibility “to make sure their plight remains fresh in our minds.”

"We need to do a lot more to explain to American readers the reach of the cartel, I think it's a disservice to Mexico and it's a disservice to our colleagues to just say 'that corrupt little country south of the border.' It is not that easy. It is not that way," he says. "I'm also often encouraged by colleagues and by Mexicans themselves who will say 'yes, the United States is to blame. The United States has a huge huge blame. If the United States were to legalize drugs tomorrow, this would really change.'" 

Corchado also makes it part of his mission to ensure that murdered and missing journalists aren’t reduced to simple numbers. Here’s a list of some of their names, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists: 

Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, Notisur and Liberal del Sur

     Between February 5 and 11, 2014, in Las Choapas, Veracruz, Mexico

Adrián Silva Moreno, Freelance

     November 14, 2012, in Tehuacán, Mexico

Regina Martínez Pérez, Proceso

     April 28, 2012, in Xalapa, Mexico

Maria Elizabeth Macías Castro, Freelance

     September 24, 2011, in an area near Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

Luis Emanuel Ruiz Carrillo, La Prensa

     March 25, 2011, in Monterrey, Mexico

Noel López Olguín, Freelance

     March 2011, in Chinameca, Veracruz, Mexico

Carlos Alberto Guajardo Romero, Expreso Matamoros

     November 5, 2010, in Matamoros, Mexico

Luis Carlos Santiago, El Diario

     September 16, 2010, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

Valentín Valdés Espinosa, Zócalo de Saltillo

     January 8, 2010, in Saltillo, Mexico

Bladimir Antuna García, El Tiempo de Durango

     November 2, 2009, in Durango, Mexico

Norberto Miranda Madrid, Radio Visión

     September 23, 2009, in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico

Eliseo Barrón Hernández, La Opinión

     May 25, 2009, in Gómez Palacio, Mexico

Armando Rodríguez Carreón, El Diario de Ciudad Juárez

     November 13, 2008, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

Alejandro Zenón Fonseca Estrada, EXA FM

     September 24, 2008, in Villahermosa, Mexico

Amado Ramírez Dillanes, Televisa and Radiorama

     April 6, 2007, in Acapulco, Mexico

Rodolfo Rincón Taracena, Tabasco Hoy

     January 20, 2007, in Villahermosa, Mexico

Roberto Marcos García, Testimonio and Alarma

     November 21, 2006, in Mandinga y Matoza, Mexico

Bradley Will, freelance

     October 27, 2006, in Santa Lucía del Camino, Mexico

Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla, Stereo 91

     April 16, 2005, in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, El Debate

     November 28, 2004, in Escuinapa, Mexico

Francisco Arratia Saldierna, freelance

     August 31, 2004, in Matamoros , Mexico

Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco, Zeta

     June 22, 2004, in Tijuana, Mexico

José Luis Ortega Mata, Semanario de Ojinaga

     February 19, 2001, in Ojinaga, Mexico

Philip True, San Antonio Express-News

     December 15, 1998, in Jalisco, Mexico

Luis Mario García Rodríguez, La Tarde

     February 12, 1998, in Mexico City, Mexico

Víctor Hernández Martínez, Como

     July 26, 1997, in Mexico City, Mexico

Benjamín Flores González, La Prensa

     July 15, 1997, in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico

Jesús Abel Bueno León, 7 Días

     May 22, 1997, in Chilpancingo, Mexico

Ruperto Armenta Gerardo, El Regional

     February 5, 1995, in Guasave, Mexico

Jorge Martín Dorantes, El Crucero

     June 6, 1994, in Morelos, Mexico

 

Supreme Court Says Yes to Pot Question

Court says Santa Fe and Bernalillo County clerks can add advisory question to ballot

Local NewsFriday, September 19, 2014 by Joey Peters

The pot vote is back on. Ballots in Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties are set to feature an advisory question on marijuana decriminalization per a Friday ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The high court held an emergency hearing, then said the Secretary of State Dianna Duran had refused to perform her mandated duty when she told both counties that she wouldn't be placing questions on their ballots despite orders from the respective commissions.

The 3-0 decision comes from justices Barbara Vigil, Petra Jimenez Maes and New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Michael Bustamante. Justices Edward Chavez, Richard Bossen and Charles Daniels weren't present at the hearing, and Bustamante filled in to make sure an odd number of judges decided the motion.

The decision should put an end to the seemingly endless ping-pong between the counties and the New Mexico secretary of state's fight on the issue. Both county commissions voted earlier this month to place a non-binding advisory question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot to ask voters whether the counties should support lowering penalties for possessing of one ounce or less of marijuana.

The questions won't carry the force of law with them. In other words, they're symbolic. Small marijuana possession is already decriminalized in Santa Fe's city limits. Efforts to bring the issue to voters in a ballot initiative failed in Albuquerque and halted in Santa Fe after the City Council passed decriminalization outright last month. 

Some Republicans have criticized the decriminalization initiative as an attempt to get liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Both county commissions are controlled by Democrats.

Duran, a Republican facing a tough election this fall, last week told both counties that she wouldn't be placing the questions on the ballots based on legal advice that counties don't have the right to put "poll questions" on statewide general election ballots. The counties then each filed a writ of mandamus to the state's highest court for an emergency hearing. The court consolidated both cases into one hearing, which was originally scheduled for next Tuesday but was moved up to Friday over concerns that all offices in charge of elections are able to send out absentee ballots by tomorrow. During the hearing, attorney Maureen Sanders, who was contracted by both counties to represent them, implored the court to consider Duran's authority to reject county questions.

"If somebody believes that advisory questions are not allowed in New Mexico, then they can take other methods of challenging a commission," she said. "In this case, though, to allow the secretary of state within days of the election to make that decision is inappropriate. She does not have the power to make the decision or to determine whether or not a particular resolution passed by two county commissions is in fact legal or illegal under the laws of the state of New Mexico." 

"So we don't even have to get to the propriety of the question in this case this afternoon," Vigil responded. "We can narrow our determination to whether she has the authority under our laws to make this decision."

Sanders responded in the affirmative, and added that the court could "leave for another day and another case, perhaps, the whole issue of whether or not advisory question questions are allowed in the state of New Mexico."

Albuquerque attorney Rob Doughty, who argued on behalf of Duran's office, implored the court to consider otherwise.

"Ms. Sanders is talking about change and change and change and change," he said in his opening statement. "The only change that's going in New Mexico right now is the fact that Bernalillo County and Santa Fe County—they're trying to do something that's never been done in the history of New Mexico: to put a poll question on statewide ballots."

He argued that state statute gives Duran the authority to act on her interpretation of the election code. State statute doesn't specifically address advisory questions, but Maes pointed out how it contains words allowing "other questions." 

"My question, and I know your question is, what does this mean?" Doughty responded. "What does it mean on questions other than proposed constitutional amendments? We just do not know what it means ... there is no definition of what 'other questions' means." 

Doughty argued that the secretary of state has the power to interpret "other questions" to not include advisory questions. The three judges didn't buy the argument. Bustamante added that the state constitution itself doesn't address all the types of questions that are often included in elections, such as municipal bond issues. Interpreting the broad language to not include certain types of questions would mean "we would have to go back and change how we define the constitution," he argued. 

Doughty also brought up the concern that allowing advisory questions on the ballot could confuse voters into thinking that they'd carry legal weight and "open a can of worms" of allowing multitudes of poll questions on future election ballots. In her rebuttal, Sanders countered that argument by saying that voters "have the ability to understand" advisory questions. 

The court's unanimous decision came as a sigh of relief to the organizers who spent the summer pushing for a decriminalization ballot initiative. 

"We have a campaign," said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico. "We can go to work."

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat running to unseat Duran for secretary of state this year, accused Duran of violating state law in her actions earlier this month.

“The Supreme Court has upheld that the secretary far overstepped her authority and manufactured a crisis for our state when none existed," Oliver said in a statement. 

Bobbi Shearer, who works in Duran's office director of the Bureau of Elections, told reporters that she was concerned that advisory questions would now become a trend.

Meanwhile a poll in Friday's Albuquerque Journal asserted that 50 percent of likely voters in the state oppose marijuana legalization, but says the number of registered voters who favor legalization outnumber those who oppose it. Stay tuned on whether those trends bear out in Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties, where the first absentee ballots are due to be mailed out Saturday.

BREAKING: Commission Advises No Retention of SF Judge

Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission says attorneys rate Sheri Raphaelson poorly

Local NewsFriday, September 19, 2014 by Justin Horwath
The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission announced a rare “do not retain” recommendation after evaluating the performance of First Judicial District Court Judge Sheri A Raphaelson.

The nonpartisan group’s evaluation, released today, says low scores in surveys of attorneys, court staff, jurors and other participants who interacted with Raphaelson factored into the 15-member commission’s decision to recommend to voters that they should not retain the judge in the upcoming November election.

“Attorneys give her low ratings when it comes to treating all participants equally and for displaying fairness and impartiality toward each side of the case,” the 15-member commission’s evaluation says. “They also rate her lower for not always exercising sound legal reasoning and for not conducting herself in a manner free from arrogance.”

After being elected to the bench, district court judges are also subjected to nonpartisan retention elections where they don’t face opponents. They must receive approval of 57 percent of voters to stay on the bench.

The commission issued two “do not retain” recommendations this year out of 85 judges judges standing for retention across the state.

The commission, established by the state’s Supreme Court and known as JPEC, has issued recommendations to voters on whether they should retain judges and justices for nine elections. At least eight of the commission’s 15 members must agree on a recommendation. The 15 appointees, which include seven lawyers and eight non-lawyers, rely on surveys of the judges to issue recommendations. It doesn’t release vote tallies or confidential midterm surveys of judges.

But it does release final surveys filled out by three different categories of citizens who might interact with a judge: attorneys, including defense and prosecutors; court staff; and resource staff, which can include police officers, probation officers and social workers.

Out of 124 attorneys surveyed, 45 percent either strongly recommended or somewhat recommended Raphaelson should not be retained. Roughly 42 percent of  54 court staffers said the same, while 78 percent of resource staff leaned toward “do not retain.”  

Judge Raphaelson’s survey scores among resource staff improved from her 2011 interim evaluation, the commission says, but her scores among attorneys decreased or stayed the same since that confidential evaluation.

“During this final retention evaluation,” the commission says, “Raphaelson did not take responsibility for her survey scores and the negative comments by survey participants. The commission feels her attitude and demeanor are reflective of her judicial temperament and are an accurate reflection of the survey results.”

Judges are able to see comments from survey respondents, says Brian Sanderoff, President of Research and Polling Inc., the Albuquerque firm that conducts the surveys. But, he adds, those comments are confidential.

From May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013, parties excused Raphaelson “at a significantly higher rate than any other judge in the district (537 times),” says the commission, “requesting their cases be reassigned to a different judge.”

She was appointed in 2009 and elected in 2010 to the bench on the First Judicial District Court, which includes Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties. The group recommended the retention of four other district judges in the court: T. Glenn Ellington; Raymond Ortiz; Sarah Singleton; and Mary Marlowe Sommer.

The group also recommended voters in the area should retain state Supreme Court Justice Edward Chaves. 

Cynthia A. Fry, Linda M Vanzi and Jim Wechsler, members of the state’s Appeals Court, also received “retain” recommendations from JPEC.

Do-not-retain recommendations are rare. 

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” says Karen Cortese, a commissioner since 2008, "but we’ve done it in the past.”

Yet she and Denise Torres, chair of JPEC, says they’ve seen judges be elected after JPEC’s do-not-retain recommendation. Torres says one judge reacted positively to the “jolt.”

“We continued to work with that judge and we saw significant improvement,” she says.

The group distributes guides to educate voters about the records of judges and justices up for retention. You can view the reports at www.nmjpec.org.

Climate March

People are encouraged to bring their energy to two green events this weekend

Local NewsThursday, September 18, 2014 by Joey Peters

In anticipation of next week's United Nations Climate Summit, New Mexican residents will have plenty of opportunities to join in on local "People's Climate Marches" this weekend.

The first event will be on Saturday in Albuquerque starting at 9 am at the Immaculate Conception Church (619 Copper Ave.). That march will go to the Federal Court Building and end at Robinson Park around 11 am. Santa Fe's climate march starts at noon that same day at the Plaza. It is planned to go past the Roundhouse and end at the Railyard.

Attendees are encouraged to bring signs and banners addressing "concerns and solutions" about climate change.

"By marching together, we amplify the message that it is past time to take significant action to eliminate human impacts on the climate," reads a statement from Positive Energy Solar, which is co-sponsoring both marches.

At least four local students will be marching in the People's Climate March the next day in New York City. Tammy Harkins, an English teacher at Santa Fe High School, is taking the four students—two from Santa Fe High and two from the University of New Mexico—to the march after winning a contest though the Energy Action Coalition that will pay for their airfare to New York City this weekend.

The contest had them each make a video about their thoughts on fighting climate change while Harkins submitted a brief essay on the topic. Members of the group will also have 20 minutes to share their thoughts and concerns with a UN representative. Harkins says they'll also be spending the weekend attending workshops concerning the issue. 

But perhaps the biggest event will be the march, which is said to bring a big turnout.

"They're expecting anywhere from 250,000 to half a million people," Harkins says.

UPDATED: Vanished

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