Settlement in UNM whistleblower suit involving alleged rape

After a contentious trial filled with tears, frustration and sharp warnings from the judge, both parties in a whistleblower lawsuit came to an agreement late Thursday night. The confidential settlement between the University of New Mexico Hospital and a former resident came after almost two weeks of testimony and hours before the jury was set to hear closing arguments. Former UNMH medical resident Dr. Cynthia Herald sued the school, alleging she was pushed out of the program after she told her bosses she was raped by a male colleague. UNMH attorneys disagreed, saying they removed her from the residency program because she made many possibly fatal mistakes during surgeries, had a prescription drug problem and did not take responsibility for her shortcomings. Related: See all our stories from this trial
Herald told reporters after the trial she feels “a huge sense of relief” but that the decision to settle was not an easy one.

Former state senator guilty on five of eight charges in corruption trial

A jury found former State Senator Phil Griego guilty on five of the eight charges he faced after a two-week long corruption trial on Thursday. The jury found Griego guilty on charges of one count each of fraud, bribery, having an interest in a state contract and violating ethical principles of public office. The jury found Griego not guilty on a second charge of fraud, filing false financial disclosure and perjury. Some charges include at least one year of jail time and up to 17 and a half years. This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information comes in.

Keller wins Albuquerque mayor’s race

Tim Keller will be Albuquerque’s next mayor. Keller won the mayorship in a runoff election Tuesday night, easily defeating Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis. Also on Tuesday, Cynthia Borrego won a seat on the city council, defeating Robert Aragon in a runoff election. With the Democrat winning, the party expanded its support on the council. “Tonight our city has awakened and our city has spoken and we have truly come together,” the Democrat told a crowd of supporters.

Three years after attack, urban Indian population remains vulnerable

ALBUQUERQUE – With cuts and bruises on his face, back and shoulders, Jerome Eskeets frantically told police about the violent assault he barely survived the night before. In his 30s, Eskeets had been sleeping in an empty lot on Albuquerque’s west side with friends and relations, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, who like Eskeets were Dine’, as members of the Navajo Nation call themselves. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. Soon after talking to Eskeets, police found Gorman’s and Thompson’s bludgeoned bodies. The 2014 crime shocked Albuquerque, the state and occasionally made national news as the cases against the three defendants eventually arrested in the brutal killings — youths Alex Rios, Nathaniel Carrillo and Gilbert Tafoya — worked their way through the court system.

Whistleblower suit against UNM over rape allegation begins

A trial involving the University of New Mexico Hospital began Tuesday morning in an Albuquerque district court room with opening statements from both sides and initial witness testimony from former UNM doctors and a risk management expert. The whistleblower lawsuit filed against UNMH alleges administrators in the school’s medical residency program unlawfully fired Dr. Cynthia Herald after she told her superiors a male resident raped her. Both sides made their respective cases to the jury of 4 women and 10 men. Update, Day Two: Medical school dean testifies in whistleblower lawsuit

Herald’s attorney Randi McGinn painted the picture of a female anesthesiologist, in her second year of post-medical school experience, who was “washed out” of her residency program and is now left with a besmirched record, unable to obtain a well-paying job. McGinn told jurors after Herald reported the rape, medical school administrators began grading Herald’s job performance negatively.

Scandals pile up for Interior secretary

In recent weeks, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has taken a lot of heat for his decisions. Conservation groups have lambasted him over the secretiveness of his department’s monuments review. The final review has yet to be made public, though a draft of the report leaked to the press in September. Conservationists have also critiqued his moves to undo years of collaborative planning for sage grouse protection. This story originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission.

New Mexico isn’t ready for the next recession

The question isn’t if there will be another recession, it’s when the next recession will hit. And a new report finds that New Mexico is among the most ill-prepared states for an economic downturn. Moody’s Analytics analyzed all 50 states to find out which are best- and least-prepared for the next recession. Performing “stress tests” on each of the states’ budgets, the risk management company looked at how drops in tax revenue and increases in Medicaid spending from a recession would impact state spending—and if states had enough reserves to weather a moderate or severe recession without raising taxes or cutting spending. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith said one clear indicator that New Mexico isn’t ready is the state has “never fully recovered from the recession when the rest of the nation has.”

The inability to recover from the Great Recession shows that the next recession “should be around the corner” according to Moody’s Analytics.

Ethics complaint against Keller headed to city hearing officer

The hits keep coming towards one Albuquerque mayoral candidate—and at least two formal complaints against him are coming from a former candidate and his lawyer. Since the mayoral election ended earlier this month, Dan Lewis has gone after Tim Keller’s voting record in the New Mexico State Senate through T.V. ads and a website, but his campaign and supporters are also under fire for alleged unethical campaign practices. Bernalillo County Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson filed two ethics complaints against Keller. Johnson’s lawyer in both cases is former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers. One ethics complaint against Keller is already pending with the Albuquerque Board of Ethics concerning in-kind contributions and now, another is headed for a city hearing officer’s jurisdiction.

APS facing federal scrutiny for handling of disabled student

The federal government is investigating alleged discrimination by Albuquerque Public Schools against a student with a disability. The claim involves Michael Bruening, a 16-year-old autistic student who last saw an APS classroom in May 2015, according to his mother, Laura Gutierrez. The school district placed Bruening on homebound instruction, or education at home, but according to Gutierrez hasn’t done enough to support his educational development. Gutierrez, who said she does the bulk of instructing her son now, estimates he’s only attained education levels around the 6th or 7th grade. “I can’t teach him without him blowing up,” she said in a recent interview.

Boisterous meeting over right-to-work in Sandoval County

A Sandoval County Commission meeting attracted a boisterous crowd Thursday night, as passions ran high over a proposed right-to-work ordinance. The capacity crowd remained mostly respectful, at least until after public comment and once the commissioners began speaking. One commissioner compared unions to the mafia and then singled out a teacher who commented earlier and blamed teachers unions for poor education of students. Right-to-work laws, which are in place in more than half the states in the country, bar unions from imposing mandatory fees on workers. The proposed ordinance would not apply to current companies and unions in the county.