State faces new open records suit over pay to guv’s favored attorney

A lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Santa Fe District Court aims to uncover how much New Mexico taxpayers shelled out for a private attorney to represent Gov. Susana Martinez’s office in a number of court cases. Journalist Jeff Proctor* filed the lawsuit against the state’s General Services Department (GSD) for not releasing attorney Paul Kennedy’s invoices for his public work, claiming the department failed to comply with the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The suit calls for the state to release specific invoices and bills that show how much the state has paid Kennedy to represent Martinez as contract counsel in several cases. In addition to retaining Kennedy, Martinez also has access to four state employed legal staff, whose combined salaries total $341,850. The lawsuit states by not releasing Kennedy’s billing records GSD not only violated the open records law, “but also offend the spirit and intent of the law governing matters of public concern.”

That spirit of the law, said Proctor’s lawyer Frank Davis, “is to make sure we have an informed electorate.”

“We need to know where dollars are being spent,” Davis said.

ATF used traveling, well-paid informants in ABQ sting

One of the men who helped the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) search for potential targets in a sweeping undercover drug and gun sting operation in Albuquerque last year is paid an $80,000 annual salary, court filings show. The man appears to have been released early from a 10-year federal prison sentence and goes “around the country with his handlers creating crime for the government to prosecute” as a ‘“confidential informant,” the documents say. Related: Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’

Another informant ATF brought to Albuquerque for the operation is paid $1,400 a week plus occasional “bonuses,” he said under oath, according to a recording from a state court hearing obtained by New Mexico In Depth. He did not say what the bonuses were for. That informant considers working for the ATF his full-time job.

Arrests at syringe exchange spotlight APD tactics

Albuquerque police Detective Herman Martinez had an anonymous tip: a man and woman had warrants out for their arrests, they had been selling large amounts of heroin in the city, and the man had a gun. So shortly after noon on June 28, Martinez and seven other plainclothes officers from the APD Narcotics and Vice units followed Camille Gabaldon, 38, and 37-year-old Greg Chaparro, in unmarked police cars as the pair drove through the city in a maroon sedan. This story first appeared in New Mexico In Depth. It is reprinted with permission. Within an hour, the officers were in another fraught drug investigation — the third such incident involving the Narcotics Unit and street-level users during the last several weeks. The June 28 encounter provides another lens through which to view a New Mexico version of the tension between law enforcement and marginalized communities that is roiling the nation.

Controversial ‘reverse stings’ on drug users will continue despite outcry

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden has offered a full-throated defense of his department’s increasingly controversial “reversal narcotic operations,” including one on May 9 in which undercover officers posed as drug dealers along East Central Avenue, sold and traded small amounts of crack cocaine and methamphetamine to homeless people, then arrested them on felony possession charges. The operations improve “quality of life” for area businesses and residents, decrease property crimes, gain intelligence for narcotics detectives to use in future cases and provide those arrested access to addiction and mental health services they otherwise shun, Eden wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to City Councilor Pat Davis*. This piece originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is used with permission. Davis, whose council district includes the area where APD detectives made the arrests on May 9, asked Eden in a May 20 letter to suspend the “low-level” operations, calling them “misguided” and saying they “target the symptom of a larger problem without bringing any long-term benefit to the community.”

The chief said in his letter that the operations would continue, though the department’s “focus has never been to target the homeless population.”

In the May 9 operation, APD detectives accepted $3, colic medication, clothing, used electronics and other paltry sums for drugs. At least six of the eight arrested were homeless people of color.

NM bail reform debate heavy on ideas, light on data

State lawmakers are debating whether to ask voters to change the Constitution and give judges more flexibility in the state’s longstanding cash bail system. Two proposals vie for their attention and if either wins the Legislature’s approval, it would go before voters in November. One would allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous but let those who are not go free before trial if financial hardship is all that’s keeping them behind bars. The other addresses dangerous defendants but not individuals too poor to afford bail. Currently, the New Mexico Constitution allows nearly all criminal defendants the chance for freedom before trial, so long as they can afford it.