An Albuquerque district judge rejected challenges to the city’s minimum wage ordinance this week, saying it was simply too late to reverse something voters decided on and approved nearly five years ago. “Each and every exercise of voters’ rights and expression of voters’ choice involves our inherent and cherished rights and is entitled to the same degree of deference and protection whatever its source,” Judge Alan Malott wrote in his Wednesday decision. His decision came in a wage-theft lawsuit alleging that the former owners of Kellys Brew Pub, including Dennis Bonafontine, violated the city’s minimum wage ordinance by making workers pay $3 per hour from tips to the owners. The current owners of Kellys Brew Pub did not challenge the minimum wage and have not been named in the suit. The allegations date back to when the city’s tipped minimum wage had just spiked from $2.13 per hour to $5.16 per hour as a result of a 2012 city ballot initiative.
The ex-owners of an Albuquerque restaurant and bar want a state district court judge to throw out a wage theft lawsuit against them and argue the ordinance that raised the city’s minimum wage is invalid. If a judge were to rule the ordinance was not validly enacted, it would lower the minimum wage to the state’s rate of $7.50 per hour. Currently, the Albuquerque minimum wage is $8.80 per hour. The current owners are not part of the lawsuit. “Santa Fe Dining purchased Kelly’s in August of 2016 and since that time all Kelly employees are paid by the rate required by law, including the Albuquerque ordinance at issue in the lawsuit between the former owner of Kelly’s and some of its employees,” Jim Hargrove, president of Santa Fe Dining, wrote in an email to NM Political Report Tuesday.
A high profile ballot proposal that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees will likely not be on the ballot this November. A district judge in Albuquerque ruled Monday county commissioners legally have the discretion to deny ballot access to city initiatives during general elections. Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott told a courtroom packed with advocates both for and against the paid sick leave initiative that he would not order the Bernalillo County Commission to add the proposal to the November general election ballot. “The county cannot be forced to include the proposed ordinance,” Malott said. Malott also ruled the full text of the order must be on the ballot when it does go in front of voters, which is likely in 2017.
The Albuquerque Police Department lost an open records case where a journalist sought an inventory weapons owned by the department. The journalist was Peter St. Cyr, an independent journalist who wrote an article for ABQ Free Press and sought an inventory of the weapons. APD rejected the request, saying that this would aid terrorists, according to the free paper’s website. St.