December 14, 2015

2015 Recap: Special session, plus problems with teacher evaluations

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

After months of bickering and finger-pointing, the Legislature convened for a quick special session where the legislators passed capital outlay legislation and a tax package before going home quickly. Earlier, we were told that the deadline had passed, so we looked at why it was still possible even after that deadline. We took a quick look at the top-dollar capital outlay projects that were included. Still, Martinez made some vetoes (mostly from Democrats).

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

We investigated some problems with the state’s evaluation program, including the story of a reading teacher received low evaluation scores—based on students she didn’t even teach in subjects she didn’t teach. Another story on a music teacher being given a failing grade based on subjects he didn’t teach received national attention. APS ultimately questioned 30 percent of the teacher evaluations.

Another of our feature stories in the month examined a behind-the-scenes battle at an Albuquerque non-profit health clinic that left the clinic short $30,000 and the director ousted.

The Department of Justice and Albuquerque Police Department agreement received the blessing of a federal judge, a key step in the process.

A city of Albuquerque audit targeted former APD chief Ray Schultz who had some interesting conflicts of interest while in that high profile position.

We reported on how the family of Jaquise Lewis, a teen who was killed at Los Altos Skate Park, wanted cell phone video released. It would be nearly six months from that story until the release of the video.

The Spring of Santolina turned turned over to the summer and the approval of the massive development by the Bernalillo County Commission and passed a development agreement.

Earlier, the Albuquerque city council rejected the introduction of legislation that would give them a say on the controversial development. Councilor Isaac Benton wanted a second crack at it but that, too, was rejected. The capital outlay bill passed during the special session included some money that would help the development.

It wasn’t related to the scandal that ultimately brought down Dianna Duran, but the Farmington Daily-Times spent time trying to get a straight answer on how many campaign finance violations her office referred to the Attorney General’s office. Balderas had some suggestions on how the Secretary of State could help with campaign finance troubles by candidates throughout the state.

Her office responded by accusing Balderas of violating campaign finance laws by missing deadlines, but ultimately Balderas proved that in the one case he missed a deadline he wrote a letter saying he would accept any punishment and in the other cases, he did not violate any law..

Attorney General Hector Balderas sought bids from forensic audit firms to finish off the behavioral health investigation. Just a day later, he cleared another provider of fraud. Three behavioral health providers sued the state over how the whole controversial process went down. Later in the month, we found out that the Medicaid overbilling was lower than the original claims by the state.

In Las Cruces, a vote by city councilors headed off potential recalls of the two, setting the stage for high dollar (at least one side) city council elections later in the year.

A Susana Martinez campaign veteran was the surprise choice to run Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, back when he was still considered a top-tier competitor.

June also is annually the time for Albuquerque Pride; we spoke to a longtime organizer who told us about the early days of the LGBTIQ-rights gathering. And we spoke Adrien Lawyer, the head of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was kicked off the Republican whip team for clashing with leadership, part of the discomfort between leadership and some rank-and-file Republicans that likely helped lead to the end of John Boehner’s time as Speaker of the House.