Former Tax and Revenue Secretary charged with embezzlement

The New Mexico Attorney General filed embezzlement and other charges against a former Tax and Revenue Department (TRD) secretary Thursday. She had previously resigned amid questions about possible preferential treatment of a former client. A spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas confirmed that special agents with the AG’s office filed nine criminal charges against former Tax and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla. This is a developing story and may be updated with more information. Update: Added information from the criminal complaint

At the time of publication, the criminal complaint against Padilla was not yet available through online court records.

U.S. Supreme Court strikes blow against public sector unions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that public sector labor unions can no longer mandate fees from the workers they represent. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Mark Janus, an Illinois man who argued he should not be required to pay fees for contract negotiations between the union and his employer. In New Mexico, the debate over mandatory union fees goes back decades, but has seen a resurgence in the past few years when Republicans began trying to pass right-to-work laws, or laws banning union fees as a term of employment. More recently, Americans for Prosperity New Mexico (AFP-NM) began lobbying counties to pass right-to-work laws in the private sector. With this ruling, public sector labor unions must immediately stop collecting fees beyond dues which are paid by members who voluntarily join.

Pearce and Lujan Grisham talk education plans

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor outlined their plans for education in the state for a crowd of educational advocates on Monday. While both U.S. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce seemed to agree there is plenty to fix in the state, their starkest differences came down to state-funded, early childhood education. Their speeches were part of the annual New Mexico Voices for Children Kids Count conference in Albuquerque. Democratic nominee Lujan Grisham told conference attendees she supported tapping an addition one percent from the state’s land grant permanent fund to fund a long term, sustainable early childhood education program.

State law encourages secret payouts

Before Cynthia Herald left the Bernalillo County courthouse last November she told reporters that she was relieved to finally gain closure on an ordeal with the University of New Mexico that lasted more than half a decade. Herald sued the university’s medical school, claiming she was wrongfully dismissed from a residency program and settled before closing arguments. The terms of the settlement were, by state law, temporarily shielded from public scrutiny. That meant the public couldn’t see the total amount UNM agreed to pay, including how much money was to come from the medical school’s anesthesiology department and how much from the state’s Risk Management Division. Seven months later, the University still won’t release that information and cites the same law.

Groups want ‘Democracy Dollars’ to bolster ABQ publicly-financed candidates

On New Mexico’s primary election day, in almost triple-digit heat, former state Senator Dede Feldman stood outside an Albuquerque middle school with a signature-filled clipboard in hand. It’s not uncommon to see people gathering signatures outside of polling locations for various political efforts. But Feldman wasn’t there to get anyone elected. The former four-term lawmaker, shaded by a wide brimmed hat, was collecting signatures to get a public campaign finance initiative on the ballot in November for Albuquerque voters. The initiative that Feldman and others hope to get on the ballot would increase money to at least some municipal candidates in Albuquerque who take part in the city’s public financing system.

GOP Secretary of State candidate drops out of race

New Mexico Republican candidate for Secretary of State and Albuquerque lawyer  JoHanna Cox announced Wednesday she’s dropping out of her race. Cox cited the need to take care of her family as why she could not continue running. “Unfortunately, I am unable to continue this campaign because my family requires my full attention at this moment,” Cox wrote in a statement. Cox said she would “give my full support to the candidate who takes my place on the ballot.” The Albuquerque Journal recently reported Cox faced three legal malpractice lawsuits in the past six years.

City of Albuquerque agrees to settlement in police shooting suit

The City of Albuquerque agreed to a still-undisclosed settlement in a four-year-old lawsuit filed by the minor children of a man who was shot and killed by police. The agreement came Friday, just two days before a jury trial for the lawsuit was set to start. Three children of Mickey Owings filed a lawsuit against the city in 2014 after the U.S. Department of Justice included Owings’ death in its scathing report of the Albuquerque Police Department and its use of excessive force. A spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller confirmed the city and the children’s attorneys agreed to settle, but she declined to provide details before a state district court judge approves the agreement. “The parties reached an agreement on the Owings case, which is one of the last few remaining cases still pending from the previous administration listed in the DOJ report,” the mayor’s spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said.

A day after primary, Democratic winners look toward general election

For New Mexico Democrats, the celebration and rallying didn’t stop after he primaries on Tuesday night. About 75 party officials, candidates and their supporters crammed into a back room of an iconic Albuquerque restaurant Wednesday morning to celebrate primary wins from late the night before. Democratic primary winners Deb Haaland and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham energized the crowd at Barelas Coffee House with talks about winning the general election in November. “We have the most incredible Democrats,” Lujan Grisham said. “I have to say this is one of the strongest tickets I’ve ever seen.”

Haaland, who is the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat Lujan Grisham currently holds, encouraged Democrats to take any criticism from Republicans with a grain of salt.

“You know all of this doesn’t have to be so serious, when we’re getting hit with this barrage of horrible things from the Republicans,” Haaland told the crowd.

Lujan Grisham cruises to victory in Democratic gubernatorial primary

One of the less-surprising moments on Tuesday was when U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary for governor. A recent Albuquerque Journal poll showed Lujan Grisham more than 40 points ahead of former television executive and son of a past New Mexico governor, Jeff Apodaca. On Tuesday night, election numbers showed Lujan Grisham with more than 60 percent of the vote against Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes. “You guys are awesome,” Lujan Grisham said to supporters Tuesday night during a victory speech in Albuquerque. In the last several weeks, the race became increasingly contentious when Apodaca’s campaign criticized Lujan Grisham’s role in a private company that manages the state’s high risk insurance pool.

Women win contested congressional races, to face off in November

Women dominated contested congressional races in the Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday. Former Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Deb Haaland won the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary election late Tuesday night. Haaland picked up more than 40 percent of the votes in race with five other names on the ballot. About three hours after the polls closed, Haaland addressed her supporters packed into a small business space in Albuquerque Nob Hill, which also serves as her campaign office. “I am honored by all of your presence here,” Haaland told the crowd.