Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT
- POLICE STAFFER-MISSPENDING
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the outgoing Albuquerque police chief's staff has been cleared of allegations of abusing a city credit card and getting an inappropriate pay raise. The Albuquerque Police Department announced Friday the results of an internal investigation of John Ross, the chief of staff for Chief Mike Geier. Geier's secretary in July accused Ross of using the city-issued card for personal purchases like a $2,500 laptop. According to the probe, Ross only committed a minor infraction. He did not list the purchase of two items on the card within the required three days of their acquisition.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration's leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully and blocked him from continuing in the position. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said Friday that U.S. Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley was never confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate as required under the Constitution and served unlawfully for 424 days. The ruling marks the latest pushback against the administration's practice of filling key positions without U.S. Senate approval. Montana's Democratic governor had sued to remove Pendley. The agency oversees almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.
- DRY SOUTHWEST
BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's state climatologist says the fingerprints of climate change are evident in the persistent drought that's plaguing the American Southwest. Dave DuBois says dry areas are becoming drier due to a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the West that has become stronger in recent years. He also warned during an online briefing Thursday that the region should be prepared for more warm temperatures and less precipitation this fall and winter. In Nevada, forecasters continue to track a record-setting dry streak for Las Vegas as their colleagues in Arizona hold out hope for a break from record heat next week.
ZUNI PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — A hand-carved figure held sacred by a Native American community in New Mexico has been returned to the tribe by an Ohio auction house. Cowan's Auctions announced Thursday that the 15-inch carving of a Zuni Pueblo war god was returned in late August after being discovered in an estate collection that had been consigned to the auction house. The wooden war god carvings are ceremonially brought to shrines on tribal lands where they are left to return to the elements. Over the years, many have been illegally removed and have made their way to museums and private collections. Zuni Pueblo has recovered more than 100.
- ELECTION 2020-JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Democratic senators have placed the judicial confirmation process for two U.S. District Court vacancies on hold until after the Nov. 3 election. They say the president has politicized the process, so they'll wait until the voters have spoken. Using their home-state consultation authority, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall confirmed Thursday that they have interrupted the vetting of the two lifetime appointments. They say they took the action even before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in response to a White House news conference where President Donald Trump rallied his base with talk of his judicial appointments.
- ELECTION 2020-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — President Donald Trump is hinting at a visit to New Mexico without providing further details in a tweet about protecting gun rights and building a border wall. Trump tweeted Friday, "Working hard in New Mexico. ... Will be there soon." The Trump administration has completed 20 miles of border wall construction along the 185-mile section of New Mexico's southwestern border with Mexico. Trump last visited the state a year ago and this year has highlighted violent crime trends in Democratic-led Albuquerque. Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016 by a margin of 8 percentage points.
- COLORADO RIVER-PIPELINE
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Facing opposition from six states that rely on the Colorado River for water for their cities and farms, Utah asked the federal government to delay a fast-track approval process for building an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water to the southwest part of the state. Utah cited the need to consider roughly 14,000 public comments on the proposed Lake Powell pipeline project. The project would deliver water 140 miles from Lake Powell in northern Arizona to the growing area surrounding St. George, Utah. In a recent letter, officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming warned of litigation if the project proceeds.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Voters across New Mexico have submitted nearly 250,000 absentee ballot requests with especially strong demand among Democrats for alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic. State election regulators on Thursday also said initial vote tallies could extend beyond Election Day if voters wait until late in the cycle to mail or hand deliver ballots. Fewer than 8,000 absentee ballots were cast statewide in the 2016 presidential election. In other pandemic developments, the governor cited a slight increase in the rate of spread for COVID-19 statewide and more substantially signs of spread in areas including Albuquerque and Sandoval County.