Just days after a state senator called for the resignation of New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary Brent Earnest, the two kept things relatively cordial with one another in their first public meeting since then. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, chair of the interim Legislative Health and Human Services, gave the floor to Earnest during the Monday morning committee hearing by the committee to explain how he is addressing allegations in several court testimonies of a department policy to falsify and delay emergency food benefit applications. “I don’t believe that anything has been said about what you’re doing about that,” Ortiz y Pino told Earnest. Last week, Ortiz y Pino made a statement calling the alleged practice “completely unacceptable.”
“If Secretary Earnest did not know this was happening, he failed to lead the agency,” his statement said. “If he did know, but did nothing, then this is may be a very serious legal matter.”
During the hearing Monday, Earnest explained that since the allegations first surfaced in April, his department launched an internal investigation and issued a written directive to employees telling them to follow federal guidelines.
Web pages with salacious images that are part of the personal website of a District Attorney candidate in Doña Ana County caused at least three prominent elected Republicans to withdraw their names as co-hosts of an upcoming fundraiser. The homepage to Brad Cates’ website—www.bradcates.com—shows a picture of the smiling candidate next to bulletpoints of his lawyerly credentials. But certain pages on Cates’ website—like one showing a picture of a seductive-looking blonde woman next to the words “Russia House” and another showing multiple photos of scantily clad women falling across the screen like a slot machine—are causing controversy. The pages have been passed around in certain Republican circles in recent days. Cates is a Republican hoping to replace Doña Ana District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, a Democrat, this fall.
LAS CRUCES — In a scene of high drama reminiscent of the TV drama “Law and Order,” three prominent state Human Services Department officials invoked their fifth amendment rights nearly 100 times in federal court Friday afternoon. Their refusal to answer questions came directly after sworn testimony from six HSD employees who alleged a widespread practice of fraudulently altering federal food benefits applications. The practice, according to eight former and current HSD employees who testified in federal court last month and today, amounts to adding false assets to the applications of people who would otherwise qualify for emergency aid from their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. “I still don’t understand why I had to falsify assets,” Shar Lynne Louis, a case processor at HSD’s Income Support Division (ISD) office in Gallup who retired last July, said in court. Louis testified that the state had been practicing the pattern of fraud since at least 2003, when she first came to the department.
Gov. Susana Martinez named a Second Judicial District Court Judge to fill the vacancy on the state Supreme Court. Martinez announced in a press release on Thursday afternoon that Judge Judith Nakamura will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Richard Bosson. “Judge Nakamura has shown tremendous leadership and dedication during her time on the bench. As an advocate for public safety, she has a proven track record of working to keep our families safe,” Governor Martinez said in a statement. “I’m proud to appoint her to our highest court because she has devoted her career to upholding justice, and I’m confident she will continue to serve New Mexico with integrity.”
Nakamura has served on the Second Judicial District Court since 2013, when she was appointed by Martinez.
The House panel tasked with looking into possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran has already hired special counsel to aid in the investigation. Just a day after the first meeting of the House Special Investigatory Committee, co-chairs Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, announced they retained former federal prosecutor Robert Gorence as special counsel. “We’re confident Mr. Gorence will do an outstanding job of assisting the committee in this important task,” the two co-chairs said in a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon. “His experience, professionalism and diligence will be invaluable.” Legislators are looking into allegations that Duran moved campaign funds to personal accounts, as part of thousands of dollars spent at local casinos.
As Albuquerque’s October city elections approach, campaign finance reports are trickling in. The latest period for campaign reports covers July 17-Aug. 13. Four city council seats are up for election, only two of which have more than one candidate. We’ll start with Pat Davis, who we’ll disclose here helps raise money for New Mexico Political Report through his role as Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico to keep our operations running but exerts no control over our editorial content.
Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson will retire form the state’s high court later this year, he announced on Friday morning. The announcement came through a press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts and announced that he will be retiring at the end of October. Bosson is one of five Supreme Court justices and has served since 2002. He was Chief Justice for two years, from 2005 to 2006. Before his time on the state Supreme Court, he was a judge on the state Court of Appeals.