A Senate committee bent Saturday to calls by Gov. Susana Martinez for more funding for state police pay and the District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, as well as calls from some fellow lawmakers to restore at least some of the funding cut from school districts last year. In announcing its version of the budget passed by the state House of Representatives late last month, the Senate Finance Committee seemed intent on maintaining the tenuous peace that has set in at the Roundhouse in the wake of the partisan clashes of the last few years. The budget would amount to about $6.3 billion and, according to the Senate Finance Committee, leave reserves around 10 percent. It would amount to about a 4 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year. The House passed its version of the spending plan by a vote of 65-3 on Jan.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez announced Friday afternoon his office would not reopen the case against former Albuquerque Police Department officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy. The announcement came almost three months after Torrez took office and two months after he announced a special task force of prosecutors would review the case. In a press conference Torrez said both the task force and two attorneys from his office came to the same conclusion—that there was no evidence to show that a new trial would result in a new outcome. “There is no reason to believe the case against officers Sandy and Perez could be tried better or more exhaustively at a second trial or that a second jury could reach a different outcome than the first,” Torrez told reporters. The decision to not prosecute signals the end to a nearly-two year legal battle.
State Auditor Tim Keller announced Monday his office found what appears to be embezzlement of nearly $20,000 in public funds meant to go toward paying people with disabilities for training classes. The Office of the State Auditor announced Monday in a press release that it found $18,225 in public funds went to the personal bank accounts belonging to the former program director of the Center for Self-Advocacy. The Center for Self-Advocacy is part of the New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC), a public entity. Those with disabilities in the Center for Self-Advocacy program, called advocates, receive a $25 stipend to attend the training classes. The state auditor’s investigation found the “Program Director created false DDPC advocate invoices for classes not attended by the advocates.” These payments did not go to the advocates; instead, they went to the former program director’s bank account.
A review by the State Auditor found an Albuquerque charter school’s executive altered a receipt to receive a reimbursement from the school for cleaning services performed on her home. The investigation prompted a referral to prosecutors for multiple potential crimes. The State Auditor looked into the allegations, first raised in the media earlier this year, over the actions of Analee Maestas, the Executive Director of La Promesa Charter School. Maestas also is the Vice President of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education. “The timeline of events indicate that the Executive Director used school funds to pay for work completed at her home,” State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement.
Billionaire George Soros is taking a stake in the Bernalillo County district attorney’s race, backing Raul Torrez with a $107,000 contribution to an independent expenditure committee. Soros made the donation May 26 to the newly created New Mexico Safety and Justice political action committee. That group reported spending $92,527 on media production and ad buys supporting Torrez and about $11,500 for polling ahead of Tuesday’s primary between Democrats Torrez and Edmund Perea. The super PAC has raised and spent more than Perea’s campaign. Most of the PAC money appears to have been spent on local radio spots, which feature Torrez speaking at rallies about his plans to reform the high-profile, sometimes controversial DA’s office in New Mexico’s most populous county.
The deadline for New Mexico candidates to file has passed which means campaign season is in full swing. It’s not just legislators competing though. Across the state candidates are also running for the position for district attorney in their respective areas. These races may have extra attention this year after a relentless drumbeat of tough-on-crime bills during the legislative session. First Judicial District
The First Judicial District—which covers Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos Counties—will see at least a couple of former coworkers going up against each other.
New Mexico’s district attorneys walk a difficult tightrope, weighing their roles in criminal courts, where they represent the state and work closely with law enforcement to prosecute crimes, against their political roles in the court of public opinion. For Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, that precarious balance has reached a tipping point. Her approach to officer-involved shootings has shifted over the years, but never so drastically as last week, when she opted to level murder charges against Albuquerque Police Department SWAT member Dominique Perez and now-retired detective Keith Sandy for the March 2014 shooting death of James Boyd. Here’s a look at Brandenburg’s long tenure and some of the events, controversies and scandals that have surrounded her handling of officer-involved shootings. If the timeline does not load, click here for another version.