UNM pays $800K in settlement, still secretive on other details

The University of New Mexico paid out nearly $1 million to a former medical resident who accused medical school administrators of retaliating against her for reporting she was raped by a male resident. NM Political Report obtained the settlement agreement this week, nearly nine months after the case went to trial. The agreement, obtained by NM Political Report through a public records request, sheds some light on why the school settled with former University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center anesthesiology resident Cynthia Herald. But other specifics, like how much of the $800,000 settlement came from the school and how much from the state or what prompted the school to settle, remain murky at best. Herald now lives in Michigan, advocating for victims of sexual abuse and hopes to start a psychiatric residency program soon, according to her lawyer, Randi McGinn.

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.

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.

Two more calls for a mistrial in UNMH whistleblower case

For a second day in a row fireworks lit up behind the scenes, without the jury present in a whistleblower lawsuit filed against the University of New Mexico Hospital. Dr. Cynthia Herald, a former medical resident, filed the lawsuit, alleging she was fired after telling her bosses that a male colleague raped her. Update: The two sides reached a settlement. 

Like Wednesday, tensions between lawyers simmered Thursday morning, prompting District Judge Shannon Bacon to address both counsels. “You all hate this case,” Bacon said to lawyers for both UNMH and Herald. Bacon’s comment came after UNMH lawyers requested a mistrial, the third request so far in the two-week-long trial.

Near-mistrial, heated words in UNMH whistleblower lawsuit trial

A judge nearly threw the case out and a lawyer made a witness cry on the seventh day of trial in a whistleblower lawsuit against the University of New Mexico Hospital. Former UNM medical resident Dr. Cynthia Herald alleges UNMH officials unlawfully dismissed her from the residency program after she reported a colleague raped her. Update: The two sides reached a settlement. 

After almost a full day of routine testimony, the judge came close to declaring a mistrial and had sharp words for Randi McGinn, one of Herald’s lawyers, over her comments to a witness outside the courtroom. Toward the end of the day’s proceedings, Dr. Sally Vender, an anesthesiologist, testified on behalf of UNMH. Vender described her friendship with Herald, which started when they were both first-year medical interns.

Woman who filed whistleblower lawsuit against UNMH testifies in court

The former University of New Mexico medical resident who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university testified Thursday, the fourth day of the jury trial in Second Judicial District Court. Dr. Cynthia Herald, who accused medical school administrators of unlawfully firing her after she told them a male colleague raped her, gave her account of both the alleged rape and the aftermath. Herald told the jury that after the alleged attack she went home and took a shower before she began “soaking and crying for about an hour.”

“I just wanted to wash everything off of me down the drain,” Herald said. Herald also explained to the jury why she didn’t file a police report against the male doctor. “Instead of being the doctor who was smart or the doctor who was competent, I was always going to be known as the doctor who was raped,” Herald said through tears.

Medical school dean testifies in whistleblower lawsuit

On the second day of a whistleblower trial against the state’s flagship university, the dean of the University of New Mexico’s medical school took the stand to testify concerning allegations that the hospital discriminated against a woman who says she was unlawfully fired after telling her superiors a fellow medical student raped her. UNM School of Medicine Dean Dr. Paul Roth testified that he does not remember being told   resident Dr. Cynthia Herald reported the attack.  When asked by Herald’s attorney Lisa Curtis if he would normally want to be notified of such an instance, Roth answered with two simple words. “Very likely,” Roth said. Previously: Whistleblower suit against UNM over rape allegation begins

Roth also confirmed to Curtis that, previously in his career, he reprimanded someone for sexual misconduct that happened off campus and during off hours.

Mayoral candidate won’t say if he will award contracts to his current employer

Almost every election includes questions about donors’ intentions and if a winning candidate would give special treatment to one in exchange for the biggest contribution. But sometimes a candidate’s day job can raise questions about how he or she will conduct business as mayor—and if old employers will get preferential treatment. Mayoral candidate Brian Colón, for example, works at the prominent Albuquerque legal firm Robles, Rael & Anaya P.C. The firm has received large city contracts in two different administrations and is staffed with a former city attorney, a former Bernalillo County attorney and a number of former assistant city attorneys. Robles, Rael & Anaya has decades of combined experience in city matters, perhaps the most of any law firm in the city. Colón recently indicated in an email to NM Political Report that he would not cancel city legal contracts with his current employer if he were elected as mayor.

DA will not retry officers in Boyd shooting

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.

Murder charge against one ex-APD officer dropped

Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn on Monday dismissed the second-degree murder charge against former Albuquerque police officer Dominique Perez, who was accused of fatally shooting homeless camper James Boyd in March 2014. McGinn filed a one-page motion in state District Court in Albuquerque to dismiss the case “without prejudice,” which means that incoming District Attorney Raul Torrez could refile the charge if he chooses to after he takes office on Jan. 1. McGinn said she couldn’t comment on why she dismissed the charge against Perez, but she did add that the second-degree murder charge against former officer Keith Sandy remained in place and that Torrez will have to decide on whether to retry Sandy. McGinn said she spoke last week with Perez’s attorney, Luis Robles, about her intent to dismiss the charge against his client.