The president pro tem of the New Mexico Senate on Wednesday called for the resignation of the five regents of New Mexico State University, saying they had arbitrarily stripped powers from Chancellor Garrey Carruthers. The regents voted Monday to prohibit Carruthers from hiring and firing people in executive or coaching positions at the main campus in Las Cruces and on NMSU’s branch campuses. This triggered a strong response from Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. She stated in a letter of complaint to the regents that they had inappropriately and perhaps unlawfully delegated their responsibilities to one person while taking away authority from Carruthers. Papen’s reference was to regents board Chairwoman Debra Hicks, who was empowered by the rest of the board to make interim appointments.
This week, three members of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) resigned, including Chairman Caleb Chandler, Jim Wilcox and longtime director, Jim Dunlap. In his resignation letter, Dunlap wrote that he was leaving the ISC with “great concern for lack of direction from the State Engineer and adherence to New Mexico State Statutes.”
Dunlap explained that decision to NM Political Report Thursday evening. “I felt like our state engineer was trying to take over and be totally in control of the ISC and wouldn’t let us do our job in the sense that the statutes call for,” Dunlap said. “He fires our director without any of us knowing why or anything—and she was working out quite well, I thought. But she didn’t take orders from him, and he didn’t like that, and he up and fired her.”
The commission consists of nine directors by the governor, including the director of the ISC and the state engineer, who serves as secretary.
The television clip shows a police SWAT team busting into a home as officers accompanied by dogs fire guns. It was not the opening of a TV drama but a recruiting ad for the Hobbs Police Department. Its focus on the violence that sometimes comes with work in law enforcement stirred criticism. Three years after the ad first appeared, the Hobbs police chief, Christopher McCall, remained under scrutiny Friday when he appeared before the Senate Rules Committee for a hearing on his reappointment to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board. The board is responsible for setting training requirements for police around the state and deciding whether officers accused of misconduct should retain their law enforcement certification.
After a year of high-profile changes in Gov. Susana Martinez’s Cabinet, top officials from several of the most important departments in state government now await Senate confirmation hearings. But the secretaries of environment, finance and health are just of a few of the governor’s nearly 100 appointees on the agenda. With the long list, it is unclear how many appointees will even get a vote before the Senate adjourns March 18. New Mexico’s financial crisis will make confirmation hearings more difficult than usual. Staff members say the Senate Rules Committee only has enough money to conduct background checks on about half the appointees.
A political action committee that supports GOP candidates is housed in the same law office as the president of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents who co-authored recent controversial changes to the university’s Health Science Center. The incorporation document for New Mexicans for Honest Leadership lists the same downtown Albuquerque address and suite as Doughty, Alcaraz & deGraauw, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office. The PAC is in good standing with the state. Doughty, Alcaraz & deGraauw is the same law firm where Robert Doughty, who the state Senate confirmed as a regent last year, works as a partner. Campaign finance reports don’t list Doughty’s name as associated with the PAC.
A disciplinary panel is recommending censure against Emilio Chavez, a Taos assistant district attorney who is set to begin his tenure as a district judge on Aug. 17. The panel found that both he and Eighth Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos abused their subpoena power by issuing subpoenas without grand jury or judicial authority. From the disciplinary recommendations, drafted earlier this week:
In issuing the pre-indictment subpoenas the Respondents may have acted with the meritorious intentions of gathering information with which they could solve a crime that had occurred or was occurring in their community. However, it is not acceptable for any officer of the Court, and certainly not one with the responsibility and power of a prosecutor to use their position to try to obfuscate the rules to the degree the Respondents’ improper actions.
Former District Attorney Matt Chandler will be a district court judge in the Ninth Judicial District Court just months after being rejected for a high profile position as a University of New Mexico regent. Gov. Susana Martinez announced the appointments of Chandler and two others to fill judicial vacancies on Wednesday afternoon. Chandler has had an up and down couple of years. Chandler announced in early 2014 that he would resign to start his own local practice, and “pursue new endeavors in the private sector.” But it was his work in politics that led to the Senate rejecting his move back to government work in the form of a Board of Regents seat at the state’s largest university.
Gov. Susana Martinez named a Republican to fill a vacancy in the state Senate. Martinez named former Estancia mayor Ted Barela to replace former State Senator Phil Griego. The Torrance County Commission named Barela as their choice to fill the vacancy. “I have great confidence that Ted will work hard to represent the residents of District 39 well and believe he’s committed to working with legislators from both parties to diversify our economy and improve our schools,” Martinez said in a statement. Griego resigned with just days left in the legislative session.
Senator Pete Campos, a Democrat from Las Vegas, proudly refers to himself as a moderate. He’s also well aware that his votes on some of the state’s most divisive policy measures have fed gossip about possible quid pro quo deals with the governor’s office. Campos, who is also president of Luna County Community College, said he noticed—and hoped to quash—pointed questions circulating on social media after he and four other Democrats helped tipped the scales in favor of the nomination of Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera. Eyebrows were also raised when he was the only Democrat to vote in favor of attorney Matt Chandler during a particularly contentious hearing over his nomination to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents. “I was just waiting for someone to ask me,” Campos told the New Mexico Political Report on Monday.
The full Senate voted to stop the appointment of a former District Attorney to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents on Friday. The Senate voted to adopt an adverse committee report from the Senate Rules Committee on the nomination of Matt Chandler. Ahead of the vote, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, the president of the chamber, noted this would be rejecting the appointment. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Chandler in 2014. The vote was nearly on party-lines, with Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, voting against accepting the committee report.