NM auditor report shows large gender pay gaps, problems with state tracking

The Office of the State Auditor released a report Wednesday showing a significant gap in pay between men and women in New Mexico. According to the report, women who are employed in managerial or policy making roles in New Mexico are paid on average 26 percent less than men in the same positions in the state. The smallest gap, according to the report, is in the service industry where women are still paid about 10 percent less than men. Besides pay gaps, the report also shows the “category for manual workers of relatively high skill level” is made up of only three percent women. In addition to showing the disparity between pay for men and women in the workforce, the auditor’s report also noted that the state’s General Services Department (GSD) has a “low compliance rate” with keeping and tracking reports submitted by state vendors.

Padilla’s hopes for spot on ABQ ballot end with Supreme Court rejection

Albuquerque resident Stella Padilla’s mayoral run is most likely over after the New Mexico Supreme Court denied her petition to overturn a state district court judge’s decision to dismiss her suit seeking to place her on the ballot. Padilla’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, told NM Political Report he may still take the issue to the state court of appeals, to “at least fix the law even though it won’t help Stella.”

For now though, Dunn said there is “no other real recourse” for his client. Dunn expressed his disappointment with the high court and their swift decision not to hear the case. Dunn filed the petition on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court denied it without explanation.

Iraqi refugee in ABQ set for ICE detention

An Iraqi refugee already on removal status with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is preparing for what might be his last check-in meeting with officials before being sent to a federal jail facility to await possible deportation. First admitted to the United States in 1994, Kadhim Albumohammed is facing federal detention because of two misdemeanor convictions he served time for more than 20 years ago. Albumohammed’s lawyer Rebecca Kitson said at a press conference on Tuesday that his client is mentally “processing the information” he received in a letter from ICE asking him to “report for removal.” But, after a federal judge in Michigan ruled last week that Iraqi refugees can stay in the United States until July 24, it’s unclear how long Albumohammed might be detained.Kitson told reporters that it seems the only reason ICE would detain Albumohammed is “purely punitive” as he has never been a flight risk and is not a danger to the community. Courtney Albumohammed, Kadhim’s daughter, told reporters it is unnecessary to detain her father. “He’s never not done what he’s supposed to do,” she said, adding that he has never missed an appointment with ICE officials.

Mayoral hopeful turns to state high court after suit dismissed

An Albuquerque mayoral hopeful who sued the city and said she was wrongfully disqualified from the ballot is now taking her case to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Stella Padilla sued the city, specifically naming City Clerk Natalie Howard, in an attempt to get her name on the city ballot this October. This came after Howard ruled Padilla did not have enough signatures to make the mayoral ballot.Last week, district judge Nancy Franchini ruled Padilla could not sue to reinstate qualifying petition signatures. Franchini ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, agreeing with city attorneys that only petition signers could file such a suit. Now Padilla and her lawyer, Blair Dunn, are appealing the ruling to the state’s high court.

APD faces suit over info on cellphone snooping devices

A public records request seeking information about the potential use of surveillance technology spurred a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department last week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed the suit against APD in Albuquerque’s district court after the department refused to release policy information about the department’s possible use of devices capable of tracking and extracting data from cellphones.In May the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU filed a records request, asking for the department’s policies and procedures on the use of cell site simulator tracking devices. In response, APD said there were no records pertaining to how many cell site simulators often called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers or Stingrays, the department owned or used. But, APD officials also said any policies and procedures on collecting and storing data from personal cellphones is confidential and cannot be publicly released, and cited  an Inspection of Public Records Request exemption. The exemption, the ACLU of New Mexico argued, narrowly exempts information about confidential sources and evidence, not general policies or guidelines.

Closing arguments filed in lawsuit against Gov. Martinez

Lawyers for the Santa Fe Reporter and Gov. Susana Martinez have submitted written closing arguments in a long-running court battle over public information and records. The Reporter sued Martinez in 2013, alleging she and her staff discriminated against the paper by refusing to communicate with its journalists and violated the state Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) by refusing to turn over records related to pardons, her schedule and other public business. The paper’s attorneys argued that the stonewalling began, ironically enough, after publication of a cover story critical of the administration’s lack of transparency. The unusual case has received wide attention, including from numerous state and local news organizations and from the Columbia Journalism Review. A victory for the newspaper could set new transparency standards for New Mexico state government; a win for the governor would mean some vindication for an elected official who has touted hers as “the most transparent administration in state history.”

A three-day bench trial in the courtroom of state District Judge Sarah Singleton of Santa Fe concluded in April, setting the stage for both sides’ lawyers to sum up their cases in writing.

ABQ city clerk lawsuit heats up, may go to fed court

An Albuquerque woman who says she was erroneously disqualified from the upcoming mayoral election is threatening a federal lawsuit, and has also asked city authorities to dismiss a protective order by the city against her. Albuquerque lawyer Blair Dunn filed a motion Wednesday evening to dismiss a protective order the city’s legal team filed on behalf of City Clerk Natalie Howard. The city filed the order after Howard alleged she was harassed by Vanessa Benavidez, the daughter of mayoral hopeful Stella Padilla. If approved by a judge, the city’s proposed order would prevent anyone associated with Padilla’s campaign from interacting with Howard.Now, Dunn said he is prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the city for violating Padilla and Benavidez’s right to free speech. In the latest filing, Dunn wrote that protective orders are only supposed to be used in the discovery process and banning anyone from interacting with a public official is a free speech violation.

Two Iraqi refugees in NM helped the US military. Now they’re facing deportation

At least two Iraqi refugees in New Mexico could be deported following a recent repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Iraq. But the American Civil Liberties Union is attempting to prevent that from happening. The New Mexico chapter recently weighed in after the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Michigan detained nearly 100 Iraqi nationals. A federal judge in Michigan earlier this month temporarily blocked deportation of Iraqi nationals, whom the ACLU has argued would face danger if deported back to their country of origin. Monday night that same judge extended the stay against deportation to all Iraqi-born people affected across the country, including at least two in New Mexico.

NM high court sets precedent on suits for damages after shooting by APD

A unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court opinion this week will allow family members of a man killed by Albuquerque police to seek damages in district court. But, the decision also set a statewide precedent that would allow families to sue for damages even after the time limit for a wrongful death claim expires. All five justices agreed in an opinion filed Monday that the children of Mickey Owings can move forward with a lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department for loss of consortium damages, or damages from losing a spouse or parent. Owings was killed by an officer who was part of the now-disbanded Repeat Offender Project unit of APD in 2010. The city’s legal department issued a statement NM Political Report, similar to one issued to the Albuquerque Journal for a story earlier this week, noting that the Owings case will be heard in a lower court.

City of ABQ files protection order against mayoral hopeful’s daughter

The theatrics continued with a lawsuit from Stella Padilla, who wants to run for mayor, alleging  Albuquerque’s city clerk failed to properly count petition signatures. The City of Albuquerque filed a protective order Monday against Stella Padilla’s daughter alleging the daughter twice harassed and tried to intimidate City Clerk Natalie Howard. Padilla originally sued  Howard in her official capacity as city clerk, alleging her office improperly vetted campaign petition signatures. An affidavit outlines two encounters Howard had with Padilla’s daughter, Vanessa Benavidez, over the past two months. In the affidavit, which lists Benavidez’s last name as Padilla, Howard wrote that Benavidez arrived at the city clerk’s office to serve Howard with a copy of the original complaint.