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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

  • New Mexico school officially dumps Spanish conquistador name

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A southern New Mexico school district has blocked efforts to repeal a vote to change the name of a high school named after a brutal Spanish conquistador. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the Las Cruces school board did not take a vote Tuesday to annul their decision last month to drop the name of Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar from a high school. Instead, the board voted to rename it Organ Mountain High School. The proposal to change the name of the school comes amid a national conversation about monuments and names of institutions honoring historical figures linked to racism, slavery, and genocide.

  • Ex-Belen city manager sues over allegations of funds misuse

BELEN, N.M. (AP) — A former central New Mexico city manager has filed a lawsuit over allegations the mayor misused public money. KRQE-TV reports former Belen city manager Leona Vigil said in a lawsuit this month she was wrongly demoted and eventually fired after raising red flags. According to the lawsuit filed in state district court, Vigil says Mayor Jerah Cordova insisted the city move forward with sidewalk repairs even though city employees told him the work would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. She also alleges Cordova wanted to spend public funds on the birthday celebration for the renowned feminist artist Judy Chicago. The city declined to comment.

  • New Mexico starts offering rescue loans to small businesses

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State finance officials have begun accepting applications for low-interest loans that are designed to help small businesses endure the financial stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday the business recovery loan program is a cornerstone of the state's response to the economic crisis. Legislation approved in June sets aside up to $400 million in state trust funds for loans to individual businesses of up to $75,000 each. In other news, Albuquerque zoo's will partially reopen next week to visitors wearing face masks or other face coverings after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Document sheds light on shooting death of basketball recruit

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A summary of witness statements is shedding light on the events surrounding the shooting death of a college basketball recruit in northern New Mexico. The document was released Tuesday by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department in support of criminal charges against a detained 16-year-old defendant. High school basketball standout Fedonta White pleaded with friends to help him survive after being shot in an altercation with an individual at a house party on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Multiple people told investigators that they saw the confrontation. White's death has led to an outpouring of public grief.

  • New Mexico Holocaust Museum hit by vandalism

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Vandals damaged the New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education just as the burial of U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was being televised. Museum executive director Leon Natker told the Albuquerque Journal the large window of the downtown Albuquerque museum was shattered Thursday. Behind the window was a large photo of an early 1960s civil rights march, part of a movement in which Lewis was a leader. Natker says it was no coincidence the attack happened just as the funeral of Lewis was being broadcast. No arrests have been made.

  • EPA settles with Utah over 2015 Colorado mine spill

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The U.S. government settled a lawsuit Wednesday brought by the state of Utah over a mine waste spill caused by federal workers that sent wastewater downstream to several states from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado five years ago. Utah's lawsuit was one of several legal claims filed over the incident, but no other settlements have been reached. The Environmental Protection Agency says it agreed to fund $3 million in Utah clean water projects and give another $360 million to the state for remediation projects at abandoned mine sites. 

  • Court upholds health order fines for New Mexico businesses

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the governor's authority to fine businesses as much as $5,000 a day for violations of emergency health orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The court heard arguments from businesses claiming the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham overstepped its authority in response to the pandemic. The ruling was unanimous in the governor's favor. Chief Justice Michael Vigil says the Legislature clearly gave the governor authority to apply administrative fines higher than the $100 citations the businesses claimed was the maximum allowed. The state has fined 16 businesses up to $5,000 a day.

  • New Mexico man convicted of killing girl loses appeal bid

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man who is serving a life sentence for kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old girl in 2016 had his appeal dismissed after he failed to file his court motion in time. Tom Begaye Jr. was sentenced in 2017 to life in prison with no possibility of parole after pleading guilty to murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse. The Farmington Daily Times reports that Begaye requested a reduced prison sentence and a hearing to try to plead guilty to lesser offenses. A judge ruled Begaye's claims were invalid because he made the requests too late.