While New Mexico grapples with a delayed roll-out of reopening businesses and cancelled public events, some detention centers are grappling with increasing numbers of COVID-19.
A privately run prison in Otero County, which houses both state and federal detainees, has seen a dramatic increase in cases of the disease.
But now a county jail in northern New Mexico with hundreds of reported cases since March has caught the attention of at least one tribal leader.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez sent a letter to San Juan County leaders last week calling for an investigation into how the county jail is run and what is being done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A portion of the Navajo Nation is in San Juan County and, like the county jail, has seen a high number of positive cases. In his letter, Nez cited a phone call from someone whose relative is in the San Juan County Adult Detention Center (SJCADC). The caller, Nez wrote, said the jail is lacking adequate ventilation, no separation of infected inmates, no laundry service and little to no sanitation efforts by jail officials.
“How is SJCADC providing for the respect and dignity of the Detainees with a safe and secure environment that is maintained for operational readiness?” Nez asked in the letter.
He went on to say that he would like to see county officials look into the conditions at the jail.
“An investigation into the SJCADC operations and more specifically during these times of unprecedented crisis is requested, along with remedies for accountability and responsibility to do the right thing,” he wrote.
The Navajo Nation did not respond to interview requests. In response, Chairman of the San Juan County Commission Jack Fortner wrote a letter disputing the allegation that inmates are subjected to sub-par conditions.
Fortner wrote that the jail accepted an offer from the New Mexico Department of Health to provide guidance from Infectious Disease Bureau Medical Director Dr. Aja Sanzone.
A recently released email showed that former University of New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs asked Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser for advice about the search for the university’s new men’s basketball coach. An Albuquerque Journal reporter received the email through a public records request that also revealed information on other athletic department issues, including a controversial Scotland golf trip where the university paid for donors’ expenses. The revelation came after the Journal reported political influence in Santa Fe was part of the search for a new Lobos basketball coach. The coaching job is perhaps the most prominent state position, and is always among the most highly-paid. A Journal reporter asked Krebs via email, “Are you making this hire?
University of New Mexico Regent Jack Fortner resigned after nearly two decades in the position. The Farmington attorney submitted his resignation Tuesday, the day before a special legislative session in which Gov. Susana Martinez wants senators to confirm two new UNM regents. In a short resignation letter on his law firm’s letterhead, Fortner said he was “humbled and proud” to have been part of the UNM legacy. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my alma mater for nearly twenty years, and to have been able to contribute in various leadership roles to work to make our state’s flagship university an even more nationally recognized center of academics, research, medicine, and athletics,” Fortner wrote. Martinez had nominated Fortner’s replacement, and another regent to replace Brad Hosmer, but the Senate Rules Committee never held confirmation hearings for either.
Last month University of New Mexico Regent Rob Doughty shepherded to success a little-scrutinized plan to restructure the leadership and governance of the university’s Health Sciences Center. As one of the plan’s architects, Doughty also kept the plan secret — from the public, medical staff at UNM Hospital and at least two of Doughty’s fellow regents in the weeks before a March 14 vote that set the restructuring in stone. Now, the black hole of information surrounding how the plan came to be is growing murkier. New Mexico In Depth has learned that Doughty deleted emails he sent and received in the weeks leading up to the last-minute, controversial vote that changed oversight of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which has an annual budget of $1.9 billion. The change did away with a board composed of community members and regents and replaced it with a panel of three regents, who are political appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez.
A sudden overhaul in governance of the state’s largest public medical institution has left several people questioning the motivations behind the changes and its aftermath. One such skeptic is Mel Eaves, a now-former community member of the board of directors that made recommendations on the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. HSC operates the university’s medical school, nursing school, two hospitals and the cancer center. This piece also appears in the March 23 edition of the ABQ Free Press. To Eaves, the motivation for the overhaul stems from other entities wanting a piece of HSC’s $220 million sitting in reserves, earmarked in part for the construction of a new hospital to replace the campus’s current adult hospital, which was built in the 1950s.