Joey Peters has been a journalist for nearly a decade. Most recently, his reporting in New Mexico on closed government policies earned several accolades. Peters has also worked as a reporter in Washington DC and the Twin Cities. Contact him by phone at (505) 226-3197.
Media coverage of planned tax legislation has so far focused on one hot-button topic of the proposal—reinstating a state tax on food. Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester and advocacy groups like New Mexico Voices for Children have vocally opposed the idea. But the two state representatives behind the proposal have not actually filed any legislation on the matter for the session that begins in January. Legislators could begin introducing bills on Dec. 15.
The highest-ranking official at the state Taxation and Revenue Department became somewhat reflective Tuesday over last week’s sudden resignation of his former boss, Demesia Padilla. At an annual state legislative conference hosted by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, the department’s Deputy Secretary John Monforte said he’s known Padilla for 10 years and came to the department when she was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Padilla resigned as secretary last week after an agent for Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a search warrant affidavit on her home. Monforte is now heading the department. The affidavit described an ongoing investigation that points to possible tax evasion and alleged embezzlement of money from a business she once did accounting work for, including while she was TRD secretary.
State Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla resigned from her position today, according to media reports. Padilla’s resignation came after New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a search warrant on her house related to an investigation into allegedly aiding an ex-client by using her position as TRD head. Padilla worked as a certified public accountant before Gov. Susana Martinez appointed her to the helm of TRD in 2011. Related: The key parts of the Demesia Padilla search warrant
The search warrant sought Padilla’s personal and business income tax returns from 2011-2013, among other information, stemming from an anonymous referral sent to the Attorney General’s Office in July 2015 “alleging illegal and financially questionable acts” as well as a referral from State Auditor Tim Keller. The warrant also sought tax records from Jessie Medina Jr. According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, Jessie Medina was listed as an officer of Padilla’s private accounting firm.
During September’s special legislative session, lawmakers agreed on fixes that added about $23 million in revenue. That was a start, but not nearly enough to solve the state’s budget crisis. On Wednesday, state legislators received little good news about the state’s revenue stream during a committee meeting. Even with that help, New Mexico’s bean counters dropped their revenue projections for the current fiscal year from previous estimates by more than $130 million. The state’s current fiscal year began in July and ends next June.
State Auditor Tim Keller recently designated the City of Jal for a special audit on the city’s water billing issues. The move comes two months after Keller’s office opened a case into an arrangement where the city in the southeastern New Mexico oil patch gave a local ranch a discount on utility water worth $1.2 million over a 25-month period between 2012 and 2014. NM Political Report, in partnership with the Jal Record, first reported on the city’s water deal with the Beckham Ranch in September. Related: State Auditor to investigate Jal water deal
In a Dec. 2 letter to Jal Mayor Cheryl Chance*, Keller writes the special audit will look at Jal’s “compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies and and procedures with respect to water utility billing practices.”
Jal City Manager Bob Gallagher told NM Political Report that he is “extremely pleased” with the state auditor’s decision for the special audit and said he has been cooperating with Keller’s office on the matter for the past two months.
A controversial congressional panel investigating abortion practices in New Mexico and the across the country is under scrutiny for its tactics and mission from some of its own members. In a report released this week titled “Setting the Record Straight: The Unjustifiable Attack on Women’s Health Care and Life-Saving Research,” Democratic members of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives skewered the majority in the committee for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”
The Select Panel, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, earlier this year sought subpoenas from Southwestern Women’s Options and the University of New Mexico and recommended the state Attorney General open a criminal investigation into the health clinic’s fetal tissue donation policy to the university. Related: Lawsuit alleges clinic donated fetal tissue without woman’s consent
Congressional Republicans formed the Select Panel after controversial, heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion activists went viral in 2015. Those videos led to unproven claims that abortion clinics across the country were selling fetal tissue for profit. The Select Panel is expected to release a final report on its investigation into fetal tissue donations before Congress adjourns later this month, according to Special Panel spokesman Mike Reynard.
A woman who underwent an abortion at Southwestern Women’s Options is suing the Albuquerque clinic for allegedly not informing her and receiving permission before providing fetal tissue from her terminated pregnancy for research at the University of New Mexico. The lawsuit, filed late last month in district court in Albuquerque, also accuses the clinic’s director, Curtis Boyd, and physician, Carmen Landau, of negligence for not informing Jessica Duran the fetal tissue would be donated for medical research. Landau, according to the lawsuit, treated Duran when she underwent an abortion in October 2012. “Women are supposed to be informed, supposed to be given information about the nature of the research, the benefits of the research, and given the opportunity to decide what happens,” Elisa Martinez, executive director of New Mexico Alliance for Life, which supports the lawsuit but is not part of the legal proceeding, said in an interview. Related: GOP congressional panel wants abortion investigation in NM
Martinez described the lawsuit as “a result” of public records requests Alliance for Life made with UNM and a congressional panel’s investigation into the Albuquerque health clinic.
Just months before Donald Trump’s surprise victory to the nation’s top office, Gov. Susana Martinez penned an op-ed about a bright spot in New Mexico’s otherwise weak economy. That bright spot is also a geographical location—the border. “We are quickly positioning our state as a gateway of international trade throughout the Americas,” Martinez wrote in June, “and we are embracing our newly found leadership role, which wouldn’t be possible without the cross-border relationships we’ve built.” Related: Why Trump would almost certainly be violating the Constitution if he continues to own his businesses (by ProPublica) Last year, for example, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, respectively, ranked as the two metropolitan areas in the nation with the highest economic growth in exports. In 2012 and 2014, New Mexico also led the nation in export growth. Nearly half of these exports—45 percent—are shipped south of the border.
A New Mexico legislator is getting on board with an effort to force manufacturers of electronics that connect to the internet to install filtering devices that would block online “obscenity.”
State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, told NM Political Report he plans to sponsor a bill that would do so in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. The bill, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, is backed by a group attempting to introduce identical bills in the legislatures of at least 23 other states this coming year. Nine state legislators and 11 lobbyists are listed as members of the national group, which bears the same name as the legislation, according to the group’s website. Gallegos said his previous attempts at curbing human trafficking got him interested in sponsoring this bill. But a look at an unfiled draft of Gallegos’ legislation shows that it goes much farther than just dealing with human trafficking.
Albuquerque Police Department officials have altered and, in some cases, deleted videos that showed several controversial incidents, including at least two police shootings, the department’s former records supervisor has alleged in a sworn affidavit. Three officers’ body camera videos that captured events surrounding the fatal shooting of 19-year-old suspected car thief Mary Hawkes in April 2014 were either altered or partially deleted, according to former APD employee Reynaldo Chavez’s nine-page affidavit. Also alleged is that surveillance camera video from a salon showing APD officers shooting Jeremy Robertson, a law enforcement informant and suspected probation violator, in June 2014 bore “the tell-tale signs that it has been altered and images that had been captured are now deleted. One of the deleted images captured the officers shooting Jeremy Robertson.”
This piece originally appeared at NM In Depth and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. Chavez also said that ‘SD cards’ from cameras were easy to make disappear, and that he witnessed Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman say ‘we can make this disappear’ when discussing a particular police camera with an SD card in it, according the affidavit.