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Ward 4 residents raise traffic concerns during forum

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City Manager Joe Neeb answers citizens’ questions during the Ward 4 public forum on Thursday evening in the gym at Valley View Elementary School. Other city staff and councilors were present and also fielded questions and got feedback from residents. (Alison Penn Photo)

Around 14 citizens attended the city of Roswell’s public forum in Ward 4 on Thursday night. Councilors Savino Sanchez, Judy Stubbs, Barry Foster and Jeanine Corn Best were present — along with 10 city staff members.

The agenda listed the following items: Valley View Elementary School’s traffic congestion, critters (specifically squirrels), off-road vehicles, Superfund sites, trash/alleys, abandoned cars and other code enforcement issues, demolitions, sinkholes, trees and the Yucca Recreation Center.

Kurt Greer brought up traffic congestion around Valley View Elementary School, close to his home, during pick-up and drop-off hours. Greer has lived in Roswell for 24 years and said he felt “it was about time” that he was heard by the city. He called traffic congestion “dangerous” and “absolutely insane.” His main concern was a fire truck not being able to access the surrounding neighborhood during emergencies due to illegally parked cars and difficult traffic from 2 to 3 p.m. Greer alleged that the traffic is coming from families who live outside of the district. He suggested a parking lot or garage nearby to combat the problem.

In response to Greer, City Manager Joe Neeb said this is the first time traffic congestion has been brought up at the public forums. To approach the issue, Neeb said the city will consider a study on how the neighborhood is using the space to determine what can be done. After a study is done, Neeb said the public safety departments would collaborate with the city’s engineering departments to come up with the best solution.

Neeb also said the Roswell Independent School District and city are “two peas in a pod” when it comes to their responsibilities to Roswell residents.

On the subject of the Yucca Recreation Center, Neeb said the city should be receiving demolition proposals within the next week and he is looking into “workforce” or affordable housing development on the property. Neeb said the city is having a conversation with an individual who has come forward with another use for the Yucca Center. Neeb said anyone interested in the property must meet the reserve price, provide a benefit to the community, and have a proposed timeline for negotiating with the city.

Tamara Gedde asked if the city would look into the impact on the surrounding schools if workforce housing brought future students to the area. As a RISD teacher on special assignment, Gedde said many of the schools are crowded as is, and she hopes the city would be cognizant about the impact. Neeb confirmed that the city would look into the matter. According to RISD maps, the Yucca Center would be in the Missouri Avenue Elementary School, Mesa Middle School and Roswell High School boundaries.

Gedde said she was concerned about congestion at Valley View Elementary school and came to listen, for suggestions for parents and the school district. She said the city answered citizens positively on the matter and it was helpful for her to hear what the school’s neighbors said. In her opinion, there should be no street parking on both sides to help parents follow the school’s intended layout for pick-up and drop-off and benefit those already complying.

On other traffic issues, Neeb said older neighborhoods are not built for the amount of cars people have now. Bill Morris, the city’s community development director, said the city has been looking into the impact of how many cars can be at homes, and is exploring solutions.

Police Chief Phil Smith shared information on mopeds and other motorized bicycles that citizens may see. Neeb and Smith encourage citizens to report those that are dangerous or loud. Smith said if the vehicle travels at under 30 miles per hour the operator does not have to be licensed. He also said if people are avoiding DWIs they tend to ride low-quality versions of the mopeds.

One citizen asked what can be done about squirrels taking pecans. Mike Mathews, the city’s public safety director, fielded these questions and said he and animal control would look into a solution.

Kaarina Jager, a citizen, asked about the Superfund sites where the soil was contaminated by dry cleaning companies’ chemicals. Morris said the Environmental Protection Agency is still looking into what can be done about the sites and expects more information in the next six months.

Sanitation Director Steve Miko answered questions about the alleys and trash cans. In response to one citizen, Miko said the landfill takes household hazardous wastes and will help citizens find the best way to dispose of materials the landfill may not be able to take.

Citizens asked again about lids for the trash cans. Neeb reminded those in attendance that lids are no longer made for the black containers and the shipment of lids for the tan containers has been delayed. He said the city is expecting the tan lids at the end of October.

Neeb also asked citizens if they would be interested in transitioning to 96-gallon roll-off containers for each household as opposed to the 300-gallon containers serving three to four houses on average. Some of the citizens showed interest in this idea.

For code enforcement issues like weeds and abandoned vehicles, Neeb encouraged that citizens report such issues when they see them. Neeb and Morris also said that the legal committee will be reviewing the proposed rental registration program, minimum property standards, chronic nuisance and property maintenance codes.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

Roswell Community Little Theatre celebrates 60th season

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From left are presenter Louise Montague, Edie Stevens, Bianca Cheney, Betty Lou Cheney, Hugh Taylor, Reece Blake, Carole Schlatter, Jim Goss, J.P. Cheney, Carol Bignell, Tom Blake, Kevin Roe and Bob Lynd. One of the highlights at the Roswell Community Little Theatre’s 60th anniversary celebration at the Roswell Country Club on Saturday evening was the platinum member awards presentation. The new platinum members of the Roswell Community Little Theatre are seen here. Each member has been active with the theater for a minimum of 25 years. (Christina Stock Photo)

RCLT’s anniversary celebration provides laughter, memories and a look into the future

The four c’s (cut, color, clarity and carat) show the value of a diamond. But in the case of the Roswell Community Little Theatre (RCLT), its value for the community can’t be measured. Looking back on 59 seasons, the thespians were surrounded by their fans who came to celebrate the 60th — diamond — season of RCLT on Saturday evening at the Roswell Country Club.

Edie Stevens is proud to present Jim Goss with his platinum members pin. Fellow platinum members in the background are Reece Blake and Carole Schlatter. (Christina Stock Photo)

Doors opened to the tunes of the Roswell Flute Ensemble and the guests — actors, directors, sponsors, politicians and fans of the theater — were seated at exquisitely decorated tables fitting the event.

Once everybody was seated, RCLT president Connie Hester welcomed everybody and thanked the guests for coming out. After the welcome, Hester introduced some of the longest active members of RCLT.

Reese Blake started out with the theater when it was known as the Roswell Players. “She is probably our oldest living member,” Hester said. “We do have some others who are real close behind her. She was also Miss Roswell of 1947.

“In 1958 we became the Roswell Community Little Theatre,” Hester said. “We have several people who have gone on and are no longer with us. If you come to the theater we have their names up on plaques. We have people who donated money; we have people who directed and donated money; we have people who spend a lot of time with the theater and we appreciate every single person. We are also saddened because tonight Mr. Goss is here, but he was not able to bring his wife Vonnie.”

Hester continued with the introduction of Carole Schlatter — Schlatter was in more than 50 shows at RCLT and is still actively helping the theater — as well as Hugh Taylor, who has been in 60 shows at RCLT.

Ahead of the awards, former RCLT president and director Edie Stevens talked to the Roswell Daily Record about the new awards to be given. “We are pinning a little lapel star on the members whom we call platinum members,” she said. “They have been with us longer than 25 years and they are active. We have some that are with us that long, but they are members who support us by buying tickets, we appreciate that as well, but it’s different. To be active you can build sets, you can do costumes, you can help us in the lobby. There are a lot of things to do.”

Hester asked the guests and RCLT members to find new members, to find new sponsors to be able to continue to put on new shows and plays. She then talked about the theater upgrades that were recently done, including lighting upgrades to reduce energy costs and traveling lights that were put in front of the stage at the event.

“We want to continue working on lights, sound system, our backrooms, kitchen and makeup room. That’s our focus for this season,” Hester said. “We are hoping that all come and watch our shows, support us so we can keep our Little Theatre here.”

According to Hester the new season will have a wide variety of shows. The first show will be “Willy Wonka,” directed by Zack Anderson, on the weekends from Sept. 14 to 30. On the weekends from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, the production of “A Christmas Carol” follows under the guidance of new director Don (Donald) James; Feb. 8 to 17 weekends will feature the production of “Lovers, Wives and Tennis Players,” directed by Louise Montague and April 26 to May 5, “Southern Fried Funerals,” directed by Alethea Hartwell.

The last show of the season will be directed by Michelle Massey, though the title is not yet known. “It is between two, we have to make sure to get the royalties,” Hester said. “We have season tickets available, call 622-1982 to get yours.”

Hester then asked the new platinum members one-by-one to step forward and receive their star pins, joking and talking about each member’s part in the theater. Every announcement was accompanied with loud applause and hooting, celebrating the award winners.

First to be pinned with the star was Reece Blake, followed by Schlatter and Taylor.

Stevens then stepped forward and told the audience she had asked to be the one to award Jim Goss. “He has been with the Roswell Community Little Theatre for well over 25 years,” she said. “I was very lucky — when I had my term as president — to have him as vice president and I learned a lot. Jim and I were the ones that signed off to have the building at South Union (Avenue). I am very honored to present to him his pin.”

The other awardees are Betty Lou Cheney, J.P. Cheney, Bianca Cheney, Carol Bignell, Stevens, Tom Blake, Kevin Roe and Bob Lynd.

Goss was then asked to talk about some of his early memories with the theater. The witty thespian had several anecdotes to share.

The highlight of the evening followed the dinner, a whodunit murder mystery performance of “The Curse of the Hopeless Diamond,” which was written by Eileen Moushey, directed by Louise Montague and cast with award-winner Taylor, Gina Montague, Veloy Millet, Mathew McNeil, Donna Paul and Joshua Carrell. The host role went to Zack Anderson. Sound and lights were in the hands of Mim Carrell, Kim Seyler and award-winner Blake. Choreographer was Kendrick Smith.

After the murder was solved, Jean Glover was announced as the lucky winner of a $1,200 diamond necklace by Bullock’s Jewelry.

Diamonds are forever and hopefully, so will be the Roswell Little Theatre.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.

Officials address citizens’ lack of trust on financial issues

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City Manager Joe Neeb answers a question from RDR editor John Dilmore (not pictured). Finance Director Monica Garcia listens to the explanation. On the table is her binder of budget information. (Alison Penn Photo)

Editor’s note: Roswell Daily Record staff recently conducted an in-depth interview with City Manager Joe Neeb and Finance Director Monica Garcia, asking more than 30 questions — many submitted by the public — about the city’s budgeting process. Today’s story is the second of two articles resulting from the interview. The first appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 19 RDR.

Neeb and Garcia met with RDR staff for two hours to discuss the fiscal year 2018-2019 (FY 19) budget, along with a number of related financial matters — including the public’s perception of the city’s finances, challenges when it comes to communicating with citizens and where Roswell residents can find information on city finances.

Financial trouble and distrust

City Manager Joe Neeb said the city is trying to make things better, when it comes to citizens who have a hard time trusting the city when it comes to financial matters. He said this distrust is not coming from anyone’s actions — but he thinks citizens and some councilors alike sometimes think city finances work like a checkbook, or a business account.

“We have so many different guidelines as to what money we have coming in and what it can be used for,” Neeb said. “It’s part art, part science — that’s what the problem with governmental finance is.”

Neeb said citizens questioning the city’s integrity should pay attention to how money is spent and where it is being moved. He said they would find the city’s actions are not creating huge fluctuations, and the process is something they can trust.

“Our job as stewards of the funding and of the projects and everything is to try and make it easier for everybody to understand — and I think we work hard at trying to take all of this technical knowledge and break it down to a layman level so everybody can understand that,” Neeb said.

Neeb said distrust develops over time and the challenge the city faces is that citizens think if the money is not spent on their priorities, then it is being spent incorrectly.

To maintain transparency, Neeb said the city prepares a budget to explain what the city will spend, and an annual report offers information to justify where the dollars go. Neeb said he hopes the annual report and budget match, so a public perception of untrustworthiness isn’t created.

During election season, a candidate alleged that the city was in dire financial straights — and many citizens say that message has lingered.

“We’re not going bankrupt,” Neeb said. “We will not go bankrupt ever. We’re a long ways away from that. What is actually happening though is that we are tightening up. Our expenditures are getting closer to the amount of revenue that we have. And so, we’re not having as much savings or funding. That is a very tight line that we walk with that … every year we are required to have a balanced budget — once we’ve determined what our revenue is, we have to cut expenses to match up to the revenue.”

Neeb said the perception that the city is in a difficult situation comes from the public seeing the city spend more cash on hand to cover services. Neeb said that at this time the expenses are exceeding revenues and the council is facing the challenge of balancing that out.

Neeb said he thinks the suggestion of bankruptcy or financial trouble was just politics.

“We are tight,” Neeb said. “We are frugal. We watch our revenue and expenditures closely. If our revenue estimates are not being met, then we are going to reduce expenses to cover that.”

When asked about the state of the city’s finances during a committee meeting, Neeb said certain projects could not be funded — but the city’s funds were rated as 10 out of 10. A citizen wanted clarification.

“I appreciate that question and I knew it would happen as soon as I said that,” Neeb said. “When you look at our overall financial picture, when you look at our challenges here, we’re financially stable — but we have hard decisions to make every year. We can’t afford to do every project that is out there and for one reason or another, there are certain projects that do not happen.”

Neeb said this goes back to the city’s priority-based budget.

“Even like this year, we have a balanced budget,” Neeb said. “Our revenue and expenses budget together. We don’t have enough money to do every project out there. It has to be prioritized and we have to focus on what we are spending our money on.”

When asked if city officials would tell the public if the city was in financial trouble, Neeb said the city would share it — and that it is not information kept secret from the citizens. In the case of a financial emergency, Neeb said a conversation would be necessary since services would have to be reduced and citizens could opt-in to keep services going.

“We would have the conversation and I’ll guarantee you that this city council would be the first ones to tell the public — if we didn’t,” Neeb said.

If the city was actually in financial trouble, Garcia said people would see services impacted and personnel layoffs occurring.

“We were able to fund everything we needed this year, so I wouldn’t say we are in financial trouble,” Garcia said.

Though communication between citizens and the city is a struggle, Neeb said the city council’s willingness to be open is apparent in the regular public forums.

“The strength of Roswell is its people,” Neeb said. “The more we involve our people then the stronger we are. When we have a disconnect between our citizenry, our staff or our city council — then we’re not going to function as well. Every day we have tough decisions on exactly what we’re going to put our money to.”

Audits

“If we were financially in bad shape, we would get bad audits,” Neeb continued. “We’d get a lot of other issues and we’re not seeing those issues, so it really becomes a prioritization of how much money we do have coming in.”

Garcia said for cities an annual financial audit of the previous year is required by the state. The city also has a lodgers’ tax audit, whereby a vendor benefiting from lodgers’ tax is chosen at random and an audit is performed.

Garcia said the city chooses an auditor from a list that the state provides and receives two professional quotes for the audit, which is estimated to cost $60,000. The city has worked with Pattillo, Brown & Hill, L.L.P. from Albuquerque for three years. Garcia said the agreement lasts for three years and then the city will test the market again.

Citizens can see the presented and approved audit on the finance page of the city’s website (http://roswell-nm.gov/Archive.aspx?AMID=39).

Neeb said the audits have been “very clean.” Garcia added that more than 13 issues were identified in the audit the year before she began working for the city, five years ago. Garcia said there have been no more than three issues a year since then.

Encumbrance funds

This fiscal year, the city had $34,000,000 in encumbrance funds. Neeb said these funds are encumbered to protect a project or activity. If a project is not completed, the funds are carried over to the following fiscal year to be reallocated to necessary projects.

Neeb said every city encumbers funds in this way. He said this year the finance department was very aware of closing projects and purchase orders that were more than a few years old.

Neeb said generally encumbered funds stay within the originating fund, unless council takes action to re-appropriate them or there are requirements to move them.

Garcia said the largest encumbrances involved the recreation center, around $17,000,000. Garcia said a substantial amount of funding is encumbered from wastewater and the water department projects every year.

Understanding for citizens

For citizens who want to examine the city’s finances, Garcia said revenue and expenditure reports are posted on the city’s website monthly.

After agreeing that citizens should be concerned about finances, Neeb and Garcia said it can be a challenge to understand the reports if a citizen does not have a background in finances, but they are both willing to explain issues for anyone in question. Neeb also said citizens should contact their city councilors if they have questions.

Neeb said communicating with the residents can be difficult because not all citizens are on social media, subscribe to the newspaper, or even have internet access. Despite these challenges, Neeb said the city will continue to provide needed information.

Finance department

When asked about her background in governmental finances, Garcia said she has her associate’s degrees in finance and applied science. Garcia was born and raised in Roswell.

Garcia said she has been in accounting since her early twenties and worked in the finance departments of the Roswell Regional Hospital (for five years) and Kymera before joining the city five years ago.

She joined the city as finance director and said she did plenty of research on governmental accounting and finances to be fully informed. She attends training annually to keep up with current governmental finance procedures.

Neeb said that Garcia is leading a team of professional finance staff. He said he offers his master’s degree in business administration and brings other experience to the table. Garcia said her department is comprised of 10 people.

“We’re actually a pretty small department for servicing the whole city,” she said. “Essentially everything comes through us.”

On the broader level, Neeb said adjustments require the council’s approval and departments are allowed to move funds within departments. If a question is outside the council’s scope, Neeb said the state will decide on approval or denial.

Neeb said the budget is a living document and a snapshot of the city’s needs and what it wants to see happen.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

Pearce emphasizes bipartisan appeal during Roswell visit

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Republican candidate for governor Steve Pearce. (Daily Record File Photo)

Though surrounded by fellow Republicans, it was an ability to work with and win over Democrats that candidate for governor Steve Pearce emphasized when he spoke at the opening of the Chaves County Republican Party campaign office in Roswell Saturday.

Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District — that includes Roswell and the southern portion of the state — is the Republican candidate for governor. He faces Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in November.

Pearce told the crowd he had just completed his second or third trip through several Democratic strongholds in the northern part of the state — including three days on the Navajo reservation. Pearce added that he has received a positive reception in each of them.

Pearce stated that he always has reached out to Democrats.

“The second district is 52 percent Hispanic, 60 percent minority, is one of the poorest districts in the U.S. and a Republican represents it because I went into those places that Republicans typically don’t go and that was the process,” he said.

He touted recent endorsements he received from two high profile Democrats: Dorothy Runnels, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Harold Runnels, and former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca, as proof of his cross party appeal.

“They are supportive because they know me, that I work across party lines, across the racial lines across every line that divides us as people,” he said.

Apodaca’s son, Jeff, lost the June 5 Democratic primary to Lujan Grisham.

A Hobbs resident, Pearce was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. He opted not to seek re-election in his reliably Republican district in 2008, when he made an unsuccessful run against then-Rep. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, for an open U.S. Senate seat.

Two years later, he was again elected to the seat he held. During his time in the U.S. House, he amassed a conservative record, receiving an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

He also is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who often bucked their party’s leadership in the House.

If elected governor though, Pearce will have to work with Democrats who now hold majorities in the both chambers of the state legislature.

Pearce said although he has a conservative voting record, he also collaborates with Democrats on legislation. A member of the House Financial Services Committee, Pearce said he has worked well with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who President Donald Trump has routinely taunted in tweets. Reps. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois, are Democrats Pearce said he has worked with on immigration legislation.

“Yes I am conservative, but I also work well with people,” he said.

Pearce said he decided to run to succeed Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican unable to run for re-election due to term limits, because New Mexico is suffering.

He said he made the decision after consulting with his wife.

“So we felt at some point that we had an obligation to run,” Pearce stated.

Education, jobs, crime and poverty are the issues Pearce said he has heard most about on the campaign trail.

“Those are the four things I hear about everywhere I go,” he said.

Like Martinez did in her campaign, Pearce is running on a pledge to not raise taxes. He said revenue can be generated other ways, such as getting money back from overpaying insurance companies on Medicaid claims.

Pearce said that he does have concerns about the security of the election system but thinks those threats will not be from Russian hackers. The real threat, he said, is people voting multiple times or casting the ballots of other people.

He said people tell him that their sons or daughters who attend college have gone to vote, but discovered someone already had cast a ballot using their name.

A requirement that someone present a photo ID before they can vote is something Pearce said he would like to see.

New Mexico does not require voters show a photo ID or any documentation in order to vote, according to the website of the National Council of State Legislatures.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

Race for governor tightening, Johnson shakes up U.S. Senate race, new poll says

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With 78 days remaining until Election Day, the race for New Mexico governor is tight and the entry of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has affected the New Mexico U.S. Senate race, according to a new poll.

The poll of 500 registered voters conducted Aug. 17 and 18 by Emerson College shows Democrat Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham clinging to a two-point lead against Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the race for New Mexico Governor, well within the polls’ margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent, according to the poll.

Lujan Grisham leads Pearce 42 to 40 percent, according to the poll.

Eighteen percent say they are undecided how they will vote in the race.

Lujan Grisham of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District and Pearce who represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Roswell, are both competing to succeed two-term Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican. Martinez is unable to seek re-election because of term limits.

Pearce and Lujan Grisham have relatively similar levels of popularity, according to the poll results.

The poll states 45 percent have a favorable view of Lujan Grisham and 29 percent an unfavorable view.

Pearce is viewed favorably by 41 percent of voters, unfavorably by 31 percent, according to the poll.

The poll when divided by congressional district shows Lujan Grisham leads the 1st Congressional district, which she represents, 48 to 32 percent . Pearce carries the 2nd District — which also includes his hometown of Hobbs — 43 to 35 percent.

Pearce also has a lead in the 3rd Congressional District of 46 to 42 percent.

The poll also looked at New Mexico’s U.S. Senate race.

The race received renewed attention last week when Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor and 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, announced he would enter the race.

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich leads the field with 39 percent to Johnson’s 21 percent. Republican candidate and businessman Mick Rich trails with 11 percent, according to the poll.

The polls states that Johnson takes 27 percent of the vote from Republicans, 13 from Democrats and 25 percent from self-described independents.

Heinrich leads in all three congressional districts by varying margins, the poll says. He wins the 1st Congressional District with 43.2 percent, compared to 23.6 percent for Johnson and 8.8 percent for Rich.

Rich has his best showing in the 2nd Congressional District with 14 percent but falls behind Heinrich’s 34.6 percent and Johnson’s 15.6 percent. Heinrich also carries the 3rd  Congressional District 39 percent to 22.5 percent for Johnson and 8.7 percent for Rich.

Other findings in the poll:

• Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has an approval rating of 30 percent, to 47 percent who disapprove

• President Donald Trump has a 35 percent approval rating, compared to 54 percent who disapprove

• Heinrich has an approval rating of 39 percent, while 25 percent disapprove

• A majority of New Mexicans — 54 percent — are are against significantly expanding construction of walls along the southern border, while another 38 percent favor such an expansion

• In the 2nd Congressional District 38.7 percent would vote for the Republican candidate, 35 percent for the Democrat, 5 percent for someone else and 21.3 percent are undecided

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

Back to school with the Gonzales family giveaway

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Cameron Kanoho accepts a Spiderman backpack filled with school supplies from Mary Gonzales after answering a biblical-themed trivia question at the Johnny Gonzales school supply giveaway. Reverand Jim Ridgway stands next to Gonzales. Kanoho, 8, attends Del Norte Elementary School and said the giveaway was, “The best thing I have experience in my life.” His mother Michelle Gonzalez said the event gave her hope for her family (two boys, one girl, and a baby on the way) and a renewed belief in the kindness of people. Kanoho’s little sister Michelle Rose Gonzales, 2, in the red dress stands nearby as other children gather around to potentially win backpacks. As hundreds gathered at Cahoon Park, the Gonzales family and volunteers passed out school supplies, pizza and canned goods. Churches donated food and desserts and Anthony Garza from Walgreens South handed out drinks and donated supplies for the giveaway. (Alison Penn Photo)

Revocation of clearances by no means shocking

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Discontinuing (revoking) one’s security clearance. Shocking? Atrocious? Unthinkable? I think not. During my 28 years in the U.S. Army I had many occasions to be “granted” (yes, allowed or permitted) a security clearance at various levels. It started with Confidential, then upped to Secret and eventually to Top Secret. When I did a stint at the Lawrence Radiation Lab, under the aegis of the (then) Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), I held the AEC’s “Q” clearance.

In every instance, when assigned to a job requiring a clearance, I was briefed on the seriousness and responsibilities of the clearance and I signed statements to that effect — and — when I no longer had the need for the clearance, i.e., left the job, my clearance was discontinued. And again I was debriefed and signed statements verifying that I no longer had or was entitled to the clearance.

Frankly, I’m shocked — shocked to learn that these high muckety-mucks retain their clearances after leaving their jobs, no matter under what circumstances they left, favorable or unfavorable. It seems only sensible to withdraw a security clearance when one leaves the job requiring it. If the advice or consult of the departed one is so important to get a job done, then that person may be “granted” a temporary security clearance.

It should be de rigueur to discontinue a person’s security clearance when that person leaves the job — regardless of what level the job was. Discontinuing a clearance is no impediment to one’s First Amendment “right to speak” as long long as the “speech” does not contain classified information.

Robert F. Lynd
Roswell

Dangers of energy production pose conundrum

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Martin Kral is certainly a well known proponent of nuclear energy. He has written extensively about it in our newspaper. I admired his honesty in a recent letter to the editor where he mentioned the environmental concerns regarding the safe storage and transport of spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Often, an advocate of a particular industrial endeavor will only enumerate its benefits and advantages without divulging any of its known negative aspects. Mr. Kral is very upfront and transparent when he acknowledges the drawbacks of nuclear energy production.

The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents (accident an inadequate term to describe the devastation and long-term deleterious magnitude of both calamities) understandably create a class of reactionary types who unconditionally will oppose anything associated with the commercialization of nuclear power such as the Holtec Project, where SNF will/might be stored halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

An excerpt from a May 2018 Albuquerque Journal editorial states: “New Mexico, a poor minority-majority state, is once again destined to be the dumping ground for dangerous items no other state will take, and those items will be vulnerable to train wrecks, container leaks and terrorist attacks.”

This concern has to be noted, but the oil and gas industries certainly do not enjoy a short list of environmental hazards as well. Energy production from its various sources poses a genuine conundrum regarding which path to take.

Let’s hope Bill Gates’ company, which is striving to generate nuclear energy without the SNF and meltdown problems, makes some rapid advances.

Steven Young
Roswell

Brion C. Lee

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Brion C Lee of Roswell, New Mexico, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. Graveside Services will be held at South Park Cemetery on Thursday, August 23, 2018, 2:00 PM, followed by a Greet and Celebration of Brion’s Life at Eastern New Mexico Fairgrounds, 2500 S. Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico. Celebrate Brion’s life by visiting www.andersonbethany.com to offer a memory or expression of sympathy for his family.

On August 27, 1981, Brion was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to Lonnie and Brenda Kay Lee, whom survive him and loved him dearly. He was a gifted Plumber and Heavy equipment operator, who worked for his favorite uncle at Delton’s plumbing in Roswell, New Mexico.

The Lord took another Angel home to be by his side. If you ever wanted to meet Jesus, all you had to do was hang out with a special boy named Brion. He walked with Jesus every day. As a family we questioned God, we questioned life, we questioned the why’s and how comes, and at times, had the “why Brion Lord?,” but we sat with Brion, we loved on him, we cried over him, and he introduced us to the essence of what Jesus was, and his daily walk took all of us on a journey that I would have never thought possible. But not one of us can deny the miraculous view of heaven our son gifted to us, and how we became the ones humbled to know that we were not only given the honor, but also the privilege to be the father and mother and family of the most precious boy who walked with Jesus every day, and because Brion walked knowing he did not have to be perfect, he showed us all how to be authentic.

Brion taught us that we are born to be who we are and each of us walks our own path and he was here to serve one master, and he did it as Brion Charles Lee, and he walked with Jesus, we have no doubt, he sits with Jesus today, in Heaven. He was authentic, clear, and if you knew him, we all know he put a little Jesus on you just as he did all of us. Everyone loved him the most, and everyone liked him the best, and we are now bound by that love, only strengthened by many who will walk with Jesus in our hearts.

Preceding Brion in death were his brother, Zachery; both paternal grandparents: William and Noemi Shelton, and Charlie and Joann Correll.

Surviving to cherish Brion’s memory are his three sons: Nathan, Ryan, and Abrian Lee; sisters: DeAnna Omera and husband John, Lydia Kuykendall and husband Brandon, Megan Griffith and husband Ian; and numerous special uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Brion was loved by many friends and all who knew him. He was given the gift of knowing his Lord and Savior, who he loved dearly and is now sitting at the side of Jesus Christ. Brion only had one wish and that was that everyone accepts Jesus and walk through this world with Him by their side.

Brion’s tribute was beautifully written in his honor by his family.

In Loving Memory of Donna Lee Torres-Reyes

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Donna Lee Torres-Reyes, 61, entered into rest on Monday, August 13, 2018, in Roswell, New Mexico. There will be a Viewing on Thursday, August 23, 2018, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home. A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, August 24, 2018, 2:00 PM, at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home. Celebrate Donna’s life by visiting www.andersonbethany.com to offer a memory or expression of sympathy for her family.

On April 8, 1957, Donna was born to Beatrice Torres in Roswell, New Mexico. She was a dedicated employee at CCDC for sixteen years and had recently retired. Donna was loved and will be greatly missed by many friends and family members.

Those left to honor and cherish Donna’s memory are husband, Arturo Jose Reyes; three daughters: Valerie Torrez, Rachael Torrez, Gabriel and Yvonne Thyberg; fourteen grandchildren, two of which captured her heart, were Brooklyn and Alejandro; six great-grandchildren, who she loved very much; sisters: Irene Otero and Brenda Moreno; and loving pet, Gemini.

Preceding Donna in death were her mother, Beatrice Torres; niece, Brandy Otero; nephew, Chris Otero; and beloved pets: Sage, Chiquita, Negro, Gage and Budda whom will be joining her.

23rd Psalm

“The Lord is my
shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Orlando Corona Archuleta

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Services are pending at Ballard Funeral Home and Crematory for Orlando Corona Archuleta, 83, who passed away Sunday, August 19, 2018 in Roswell. A further announcement will be made once arrangements have been finalized.

Ravens crash Luck’s homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Indianapolis, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass in the first half, Lamar Jackson added another in the second half and the Baltimore Ravens ruined Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis homecoming by topping the Colts 20-19 on Monday night.

Flacco looked sharp, going 7 of 9 for 72 yards before departing.

Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy. He was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

But Colts fans wanted to see what Luck would do for an encore following a solid start in their preseason opener at Seattle.

This time, Luck had a tough night. He threw an interception before logging his first completion, took a hard hit from Terrell Suggs on the first of two sacks and only led Indy on one scoring drive — setting up 45-year-old Adam Vinateiri for a 57-yard field goal.

Luck was 6 of 13 for 50 yards with a quarterback rating of 24.5.

The Colts (1-1) blew one red-zone scoring chance on Luck’s pick and another when they turned the ball over on downs at the Ravens 3 in the third quarter. They got their first touchdown when Jordan Wilkins’ fumble bounced right into the hands of Chester Rogers in the end zone.

After Tarell Basham’s fumble recovery at the Ravens 9 led to Phillip Walker’s TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left, giving the Colts a chance to come back, Walker was stopped short on the 2-poiont conversion run.

Baltimore recovered the onside kick to seal it.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown for a 7-yard score.

After Indy made it 10-7 on Rogers’ improbable score, Jackson led a masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half, which ended with Justin Tucker’s 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

The Ravens’ backup quarterback took advantage again after Colts rookie Nyheim Hines lost a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.

Five plays later, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10 — a lead the Ravens never relinquished.

Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik made a 48-yard field goal and Indy’s Michael Badgley also made a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter.

STAYING CALM

Saturday’s joint practice between the teams was marred by two skirmishes, one which resulted in both teams running from the sideline to the middle of the field.

Though the officials called 21 penalties, including five that went for at least 15 yards, there were no such incidents Monday after Colts coach Frank Reich publicly criticized his team for being undisciplined in practice.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

There were no protests by either team during Monday’s national anthem.

During pregame warmups, Colts players donned T-shirts promoting their new message “Breaking Barriers,” a community effort team officials and players hope will promote equality and justice for everyone while unlocking more opportunities for those who don’t always get them.

The Colts say there are three key components: Creating dialogue within the community, inspiring local citizens to lead and funding community initiatives such as the team’s newly established Social Justice Club Fund. The Colts also plan to award grants from the Players Action Fund, which was boosted by a $100,000 donation from team owner Jim Irsay when it formed last year.

INJURIES

Ravens: Right guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Jimmy Smith did not play. Rookie Orlando Brown Jr. made the start on the offensive line. But the Ravens did not announce any significant injuries during the game.

Colts: Indy played without receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder), running back Marlon Mack (hamstring), left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) and safety Malik Hooker (knee) — all projected starters. Starting safety Clayton Geathers saw his first game action since undergoing offseason knee injury. But after losing their top two running backs in Seattle — Mack and Robert Turbin (ankle) — they lost another one, Josh Ferguson (groin), on Monday. Ferguson did not return.

UP NEXT

Ravens: Visit Miami on Saturday,

Colts: Host Seattle on Saturday.

Kluber, Indians top Porcello, Red Sox 5-4

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Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) watches as a drive by Cleveland Indians' Greg Allen lands in the Indian's bullpen on a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON (AP) — Greg Allen hit a tiebreaking homer right after Boston pitcher Rick Porcello was struck in the midsection by a line drive, and Corey Kluber tied for the major league wins lead as the Cleveland Indians beat the Red Sox 5-4 Monday night.

Kluber (16-6) pitched into the seventh inning and matched Washington’s Max Scherzer and the Yankees’ Luis Severino for the most victories in the majors. Michael Brantley and Melky Cabrera also homered to help the AL Central-leading Indians improve to 14-4 in August.

Xander Bogaerts had an early two-run single and an RBI single in the ninth for East-leading Boston. Ian Kinsler flied out with two runners on base, leaving the Red Sox with just their fifth loss in 22 games.

In a matchup of the AL’s last two Cy Young Award winners, it was 3-all into the seventh. Porcello (15-6) retired the leadoff batter and retired the next hitter. Yan Gomes followed with a liner that hit Porcello near the stomach — Porcello retrieved the ball near the mound, threw to second for a forceout and then slid to his knees, grabbing the spot where he was hit.

Porcello was checked on the mound, took a practice toss or two, and stayed in the game. Two pitches later, Allen hit a drive into the Indians’ bullpen for his second home run of the season.

Kluber, who won his second Cy Young last season, gave up three runs and nine hits, striking out six and walking one in 6 1/3 innings. Cody Allen got the final three outs, holding on for his 25th save.

Porcello allowed five runs on three homers, fanning six and walking one over seven.

The game featured four top contenders for the AL MVP award: Boston outfielder Mookie Betts, who leads the majors in hitting (.342), and DH/outfielder J.D. Martinez, the majors’ home run (38) and RBIs leader (106), along with Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez (second in homers with 37) and shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Trailing 3-0, Cabrera homered into Boston’s bullpen in the fifth and Brantley hit his drive into Cleveland’s bullpen the next inning.

Bogaerts flicked a low-and-away pitch into right-center with two outs in the first for his single. .

Andrew Benintendi’s opposite-field RBI single made it 3-0 in the third.

RESPECT

Indians manager Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox from 2004-11, talked about one of his favorite players, Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has missed most of the season recovering from offseason left knee surgery.

“There’s nobody like him and I don’t imagine there will be,” Francona said. “He willed himself to be the player he is, and his body is paying for it.”

SHOW THAT LEATHER

The clubs combined for a half-dozen highlight defensive plays. The best two were: a long running grab by CF Allen off the bat of Kinsler and a diving catch by LF Benintendi, robbing Allen.

DIFFERENT LEATHER

Members of both pitching staffs were tossing footballs around in opposite sides of the outfield about 3 1/2 hours before the start, with Boston’s crew laughing and smiling as they ran fly patterns.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: DH Edwin Encarnacion (disabled list since Aug.12, right wrist contusion) took batting practice on the field.

Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora said lefty ace Chris Sale (went on DL Saturday, mild left shoulder inflammation) hasn’t thrown yet. “We’re shooting whenever he’s ready,” Cora said. “We’re not going to push him.” . C Christian Vazquez (DL, fractured right pinkie) has been catching bullpens and hitting soft toss. Cora hopes he’ll start taking BP later this week. He also was in CF catching pop ups from a machine before BP. . 3B Rafael Devers (DL, strained left hamstring) did some light running on the field.

UP NEXT

Indians: Rookie RHP Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.37 ERA) is scheduled to make his first career start against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Red Sox: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-4, 3.62) is set to start. He’s 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts with Boston since being acquired from Tampa Bay before the trade deadline.

No. 1 Alabama tops preseason Top 25; Clemson, Georgia next

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In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban leads his team on the field before the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia, in Atlanta. The AP preseason Top 25 is out, and for the third straight year Alabama is No. 1. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Alabama will begin its quest for a second consecutive national championship with a rare three-peat.

The Crimson Tide is just the second team to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll for three straight seasons. Alabama received 42 out of 61 first-place votes.

No. 2 Clemson received 18 first-place votes. Georgia is No. 3 and Wisconsin is fourth. The Badgers received one first-place vote. Ohio State was ranked No. 5.

The preseason AP poll started in 1950 and since then only Oklahoma from 1985-87 had started No. 1 in three straight years until now.

Ring up another milestone for coach Nick Saban’s Tide dynasty. Alabama has won five national championships since 2009 and now has been No. 1 to start the season five times under Saban. Last season was the first time Saban’s team started and finished the season No. 1.

The Tide enter this season with a question at quarterback, but there appears to be two good answers from which Saban has to choose: Tua Tagovailoa won the College Football Playoff championship game for Alabama with a second-half comeback and overtime touchdown pass. Jalen Hurts has led the Tide to the national title game in each of his two seasons as a starter.

Whoever is quarterback, Alabama’s offense should be potent with running back Damien Harris working behind a powerful line anchored by tackle Jonah Williams.

The Tide’s always tough defense will have all new starters in the secondary, but defensive end Raekwon Davis and linebackers Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses are primed to be Alabama’s next All-Americans.

The machine never stops in Tuscaloosa. One again, everybody is chasing Alabama.

NO. 1 AT BEING NO. 1

The AP poll began in 1936 and Alabama is approaching the top of a very storied list:

Ohio State — 105 weeks at No. 1

Alabama — 104

Oklahoma — 101

Notre Dame — 98

Southern California — 91

Florida State — 72

Nebraska — 70

PRESEASON FAVORITES

This is Alabama’s seventh time overall being a preseason No. 1, matching USC for fourth most.

Oklahoma — 10 preseason No. 1 rankings

Ohio State — 8

Alabama — 7

USC — 7

Florida State 6

Nebraska — 6

THE OTHER CHAMPS

Central Florida was the only team in the country to go undefeated last season and — you might have heard — the school decided to declare the Knights national champions because why not? This is college football and nobody is really in charge.

UCF is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time to the start the season, coming in 21st in the preseason poll. The Knights are the highest-ranked team not in a Power Five conference, one spot ahead of Boise State from the Mountain West. If that ranking after going unbeaten seems unusually low, it is but it is not unprecedented. In the CFP/BCS era (1998-present), 19 teams have had unbeaten seasons. Three of those teams — 1998 Tulane, 1999 Marshall, 2004 Utah — were unranked in the preseason poll the next season. Not surprisingly, all those teams played outside of what were then called BCS automatic qualifying conferences. Five other teams were ranked outside the top 10, including three from outside BCS-auto bid leagues. Boise State in 2007 was No. 24 in the preseason. Utah in 2009 started 19th. TCU began 2011 at No. 14.

The only so-called power conference team to go unbeaten in the BCS/CFP era and be ranked similarly low the next season was Auburn — twice. After going 13-0 in 2004, the Tigers started 2005 ranked 16th. After Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national title, the Newton-less Tigers were ranked No. 23 to begin 2011.

BUCKEYE QUESTIONS

Urban Meyer’s uncertain status as Ohio State coach cost the Buckeyes some points in the AP poll, and probably at least one rankings spot.

The AP asked voters whether Meyer being on administrative leave as Ohio State investigates what he knew about domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach influenced how they voted in the preseason poll. Thirteen voters responded saying the uncertainty caused them to move Ohio State down.

“It’s hard not to bump Ohio State down a tick,” said Andy Greder of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press. “It’s an undoubted distraction. I feel like going through fall camp without your head coach only adds to it. I gave Wisconsin a corresponding slight bump up.”

Ohio State had 1,256 points, 15 behind Wisconsin (1,271). No. 3 Georgia had 1,350 points.

The deadline for voters to submit preseason ballots was Aug. 13. The AP allowed voters to adjust their votes if any major news happened in college football from the deadline until Aug. 15 at noon ET.

NOTABLE

— No. 2 Clemson matched its best preseason ranking. The Tigers were No. 2 in 2016 and went on to win the national championship.

— No. 4 Wisconsin has its best preseason ranking since 2000, when it was also No. 4. The Badgers also had one first-place vote that year.

— No. 5 Ohio State is making it 30th straight appearance in the preseason rankings (1989-2018). Only Penn State (34) and Nebraska (33) have had longer streaks.

— No. 6 Washington has its best preseason ranking since 1997, when the Huskies were No. 4.

— No. 8 Miami has its best preseason ranking since being No. 6 to start the 2004 season.

— No. 18 Mississippi State has its best preseason ranking since 1981, when the Bulldogs were No. 14.

CONFERENCE CALL

Big Ten — 5 (all top 15)

SEC — 5 (3 top 10)

ACC — 4

Big 12 — 4

Pac-12 — 4

American — 1

Mountain West — 1

Independent — 1

Ex-New Mexico senator pleads guilty to embezzlement, perjury

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In this Nov. 14, 2017, file photo, former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego testifies at his own trial on corruption charges in Santa Fe, N.M. Griego, who is already serving a jail term for public corruption convictions, is scheduled to appear in court Monday, Aug 20, 2018, on separate charges dealing with spending from his campaign account. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego pleaded guilty Monday to embezzlement and perjury charges for misspending and falsely reporting campaign account activity, lengthening his ongoing stay in prison.

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Monday that Griego was sentenced to an additional year based on two felony counts of perjury and two felony counts of embezzlement.

Defense attorney Thomas Clark said Griego is likely to spend an additional six months in prison based on the new sentence with consideration for good behavior. He said the sentence resolves all pending criminal litigation against Griego.

Griego, 70, began serving an 18-month sentence in March on fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations stemming from allegations that he used his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state-owned building.

He is incarcerated at a state prison in Los Lunas that has special units for elderly inmates and those in poor health. He wore an orange prison uniform on Monday to a court hearing in Albuquerque.

The convictions against Griego, a Democrat, mark the latest in a string of high-profile corruption scandals involving public officials in New Mexico.

A former head of New Mexico’s Taxation and Revenue Department, Demesia Padilla, was charged in June with embezzlement and multiple corruption and ethics violations in her role as Cabinet secretary. She was an appointee of Republican Gov. Susan Martinez.

Former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican, resigned in 2015 and served 30 days in jail on embezzlement and fraud convictions. She pleaded guilty to spending campaign funds on a gambling spree.

Univ. of New Mexico paid $600K in ‘fetal tissue’ legal bills

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico racked up more than $600,000 in legal bills as it navigated a special congressional committee’s investigation into how it procured fetal tissue for research, according to documents obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.

University officials say the expenses were necessary to protect the university, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

Documents obtained through a public records request by the Journal showed the university used the Chicago-based law firm McDermott Will & Emery, spending $611,446 on what the invoices call the “fetal tissue inquiry.”

In 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to convene the “select investigative panel” to investigate fetal tissue transfers and related matters. The Republican-led committee’s $1.5 million investigation ultimately alleged that UNM violated state law.

The committee sent what it called “criminal referrals” to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas in June 2016. Balderas announced earlier this year that his office’s review found UNM had not broken the law.

The same referrals were sent to the FBI headquarters and the bureau’s relevant field offices “for review and any action deemed appropriate,” according to a December 2017 letter from a U.S. Department of Justice official to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce.

Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s southern congressional district and is running for governor, had last September asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “investigate wrongdoings” between UNM and Southwest Women’s Options, according to his congressional website.

But a UNM Health Sciences Center spokeswoman told the Journal last week that the FBI has never contacted the university as part of a fetal tissue investigation. The partially redacted McDermott invoices provided to the Journal do not mention interactions with the FBI.

Southwest Women’s Options is an abortion clinic in Albuquerque.

McDermott’s last billable activity on the fetal tissue inquiry occurred on Jan. 29, 2018, according to the invoices.

UNM’s fetal tissue research has attracted intense scrutiny from anti-abortion activists, and safety is one reason UNM says it was considered necessary to spend money on specialized counsel. UNM also lacked internal experience dealing with Congress, UNM spokeswoman Alex Sanchez said, noting McDermott’s help “preparing, presenting and meeting the expectations” of the panel.

More than 100 pages of invoices show the firm’s work on UNM’s behalf included communicating with the congressional panel and its staff; reviewing, preparing and redacting documents to submit to the panel; corresponding with and providing information to the state attorney general’s office; and helping UNM respond to media inquiries. Bills show regular coordination with UNM’s in-house attorneys and that the firm also updated UNM’s Board of Regents on the work.

“Appearing before Congress is an area that we at the (Health Sciences Center) are not as familiar with and we needed assistance from trained professionals,” Sanchez wrote in an emailed response to Journal questions.

New Mexico candidates clash on labor, business reforms

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of New Mexico are offering contrasting visions for changing the state’s labor and business climate at a public forum.

Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said Monday that businesses are showing an interest in expanding to counties in New Mexico that want to limit compulsory union fees by ordinance. Pearce praised right-to-work reforms as a way to give workers greater choice.

Rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham described right-to-work reform as a divisive, partisan issue that doesn’t address the state’s economic challenges.

New Mexico’s Democratic-led Legislature has consistently defeated proposals to outlaw compulsory fees for workers who decide not to belong to a union.

The winner of the November gubernatorial election will succeed Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Colorado man charged with murder says wife killed daughters

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Frank Rzucek Sr. speaks during a news conference at the Weld County Courthouse, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in Greeley, Colo., in regards to the charges brought against his son-in-law Chris Watts, who has been charged with murder in the deaths of his wife and their two young daughters. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP)

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado man told police that he killed his pregnant wife in “a rage” when he discovered she had strangled their two daughters after he sought a separation, according to an arrest affidavit released on Monday.

Colorado prosecutors, though, filed formal charges earlier in the day, accusing the former oil and gas worker of murdering his entire family days before he was interviewed by local television stations and pleaded for his missing family’s safe return home.

Christopher Watts, who is being held without bail, is due back in court on Tuesday morning to be advised of the charges filed against him.

District Attorney Michael Rourke declined to answer most questions about the case Monday but said his office has three prosecutors assigned to it. Rourke also said it was too early to discuss whether he will seek the death penalty.

Under state law, the top punishment for homicide is the death penalty or life in prison.

The arrest affidavit was sealed at prosecutors’ request until Monday, a frequent request in Colorado as prosecutors determine what charges to file after someone has been arrested.

After filing charges, prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to unseal it — revealing Watts’ confession that he had killed his wife and his accusation that she was responsible for the deaths of 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste. The document also says police confirmed that Christopher Watts was having an affair with a co-worker, something he denied in earlier conversations with investigators.

According to the affidavit, early on the morning of Aug. 13 Christopher Watts told his wife that he wanted to separate. She had returned from a business trip a few hours before their conversation.

Watts told police that he walked downstairs, leaving his wife in their bedroom. When he returned, Watts said he checked a baby monitor on Shanann’s nightstand and saw his wife strangling their youngest daughter. He said the monitor also showed their oldest daughter sprawled on her bed, looking blue.

Watts, 33, said he then “went into a rage” and strangled his wife.

He told police that he loaded all three bodies into his work truck, and then he buried his wife at an oil work site and dumped the bodies of Bella and Celeste inside oil tanks.

Autopsies have been completed but not released. A judge on Friday denied a request by defense lawyer James Merson to require the coroner to collect DNA from the necks of the children.

Watts faces three first-degree murder charges, two counts of murdering a child, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.

The charges come a week after a friend reported Shanann Watts, 34, and the girls missing.

Before his arrest last week, Christopher Watts lamented in interviews with local television stations about missing his wife and daughters. He spoke in front of their home in Frederick, a small town on the grassy plains north of Denver where fast-growing subdivisions intermingle with drilling rigs and oil wells.

Police spoke with Watts several times before he was arrested late on Wednesday, according to the affidavit. It says Watts initially told police that his conversation with Shanann about a separation was civil but emotional. Watts later told police that both he and his wife were “upset and crying” and Shanann told him she was going to a friend’s house that day.

The bodies were found on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, one of Colorado’s largest oil and gas drillers, where Watts had worked as an operator. He was fired on Wednesday. Court documents filed by Merson said the girls had been submerged in crude oil for four days.

The affidavit says Watts gave police an aerial photograph of the area and identified three areas where he placed the bodies. Investigators used a drone to search the area and spotted a bed sheet that matched other linens found in the family home, along with fresh dirt.

Family and friends have said they were shocked by the slayings, saying the family seemed happy and Christopher Watts appeared to be a good father. The social media accounts for Shanann Watts, who was from North Carolina, are filled with photos of the family smiling and playing and posts praising her husband and expressing excitement about the couple expecting their third child.

A June 2015 bankruptcy filing showed that the family was dealing with financial strain, including tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, student loans and medical bills totaling $70,000 in unsecured claims along with a sizable mortgage.

Trump elevates Brennan in proxy fight over Mueller probe

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In this May 23, 2017, file photo former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force. Brennan says he is considering taking legal action to try to prevent President Donald Trump from stripping other current and former officials’ security clearances. Brennan said Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’s been contacted by a number of lawyers about the basis of a potential complaint. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With tweets and taunts, President Donald Trump is attempting to turn one of his most outspoken critics into the public face of the Russia probe that he has long worked to discredit.

In John Brennan, the blunt former CIA director, Trump believes he has found an unsympathetic foil — one with whom he can spar publicly as he seeks to bolster his public-relations campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller and a team of federal investigators.

Where Mueller’s disciplined silence creates a void, Trump is eager to fill that empty space with Brennan.

Trump has long been unable to resist a fight with a foe who publicly challenges him, particularly on television, and Brennan got under Trump’s skin with his declarations and innuendos about Trump’s fitness for office and ties to Russia. But White House aides and Trump confidants say Trump’s attack on Brennan is as much strategic as it is impulsive.

Goaded on by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been fiercely critical of Brennan’s policy views and actions for almost a decade, Trump signed an order weeks ago to strip the career intelligence official of his security clearance. The president has told confidants in recent days that he views Brennan as a useful adversary.

In a decision he later spelled out on Twitter, the president began attacking Brennan not just as a critic but also as a face of the institutional government corruption he believes is driving the Mueller probe, according to two Republicans close to the White House who are familiar with Trump’s thinking. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

One White House official, who likewise spoke on condition of anonymity, put Trump’s motivations more bluntly, saying the president simply doesn’t like Brennan.

“Many people don’t even know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice,” Trump told reporters Friday. “And that’s OK with me because I like taking on voices like that. I’ve never respected him. I’ve never had a lot of respect.”

Although many in the White House urged Trump to ignore Brennan, others in the president’s orbit labeled the former CIA director as the epitome of the deep state that they believe has conspired to undermine Trump.

Brennan’s loud criticism of Trump, including repeated accusations of “treasonous” behavior alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, has caused even some allies to roll their eyes.

“The common denominator among all of us that have been speaking up, though, is genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values,” former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, himself a frequent Trump critic, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”But John and his rhetoric have become, I think, an issue in and of itself.”

On Monday, 175 national security professionals joined 75 others before them in signing an open letter protesting Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance but indicated there is not unanimous support for how Brennan has conducted himself either.

“Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former CIA Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them,” the letter stated. “What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Trump’s fight with Brennan comes as the Mueller inquiry looks into the president’s conduct in office and as Trump devotes more of his public comments and private griping to trying to undermine the investigation. It also comes amid his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s financial fraud trial and as his lawyers engage in a back-and-forth with the special counsel’s office on a potential presidential interview.

“He has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!” Trump tweeted of Brennan over the weekend.

“Everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance, it’s worth great prestige and big dollars, even board seats, and that is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan,” Trump said in a Monday tweet. “It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did! He is a political ‘hack.'”

White House officials are also preparing paperwork to revoke the security clearances of more than a half-dozen current and former national security professionals who have criticized the president or had a role in beginning the federal probe of potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and agents of the Russian government.

Some Republicans close to the White House noted that in elevating Brennan, Trump was seeking to exploit partisan fractures over some of the more controversial elements in his past.

While celebrated by former Obama administration officials for his role in the operation to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Brennan’s role in the previous administration’s drone program had made him a subject of some criticism from both ends of the political spectrum.

The White House has not offered specific examples of Brennan improperly using classified information. But on ABC, national security adviser John Bolton argued Sunday that Brennan politicized his information when he served under President Barack Obama.

“It was my view at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing intelligence,” Bolton said. “I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

Brennan, like other former Obama administration officials, has been a prominent face on MSNBC since leaving office. Bolton is a former Fox News contributor.

Michigan official faces manslaughter trial over Flint deaths

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Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, listens closely as Genesee District Judge David J. Goggins gives his decision during Lyon's preliminary examination on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018 at Genesee District Court inin Flint, Mich. Goggins ordered Lyons to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in two deaths linked to Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area, the highest ranking official to stand trial as a result of the tainted water scandal. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge on Monday ordered Michigan’s health director to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in two deaths linked to Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area, the highest-ranking official to face criminal charges as a result of the city’s tainted water scandal.

Nick Lyon is accused of failing to issue a timely alert about the outbreak. District Court Judge David Goggins said deaths likely could have been prevented if the outbreak had been publicly known. He said keeping the public in the dark was “corrupt.”

Goggins found probable cause for a trial in Genesee County court, a legal standard that isn’t as high as beyond a reasonable doubt. Lyon also faces a charge of misconduct in office.

When the judge announced his decision, a woman in the gallery said, “Yes, yes, yes.”

“It’s a long way from over,” Lyon told The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

Some experts have blamed Legionnaires’ on Flint’s water, which wasn’t properly treated when it was drawn from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015. Legionella bacteria can emerge through misting and cooling systems, triggering a severe form of pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

At least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ occurred in Genesee County, including 12 deaths. More than half of the people had a common thread: They spent time at McLaren Hospital, which was on the Flint water system.

The outbreak was announced by Gov. Rick Snyder and Lyon in January 2016, although Lyon concedes that he knew that cases were being reported many months earlier. He is director of the Health and Human Services Department.

Nonetheless, he denies wrongdoing. Lyon’s attorneys said there was much speculation about the exact cause of Legionnaires’ and not enough solid information to share earlier with the public.

The investigation by state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office is part of a larger probe into how Flint’s water system became contaminated when the city used Flint River water for 18 months. The water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes.

“We’re not looking at today as a win or a loss. We’re looking at today as the first step and the next step for justice for the moms, dads and kids of Flint,” said Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely, who specifically mentioned the families of two men whose deaths the prosecution blames on Lyon — 85-year-old Robert Skidmore and 83-year-old John Snyder.

An additional 14 current or former state and local officials have been charged with crimes, either related to Legionnaires’ or lead in the water. Four agreed to misdemeanor plea deals; the other cases are moving slowly.

“Normally we don’t see government officials accused of manslaughter based on what they didn’t do,” said Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University law school in Detroit. “That does make it an unusual case, and it will make government officials be much more cautious. Maybe that’s the message here.”

Defense attorney John Bursch said the judge’s decision was “mystifying.” Goggins spent more than two hours summarizing evidence from weeks of testimony, but he didn’t specifically explain what swayed him to send Lyon to trial.

“We had 20 pages of argument in our legal brief that he didn’t address,” Bursch said outside court. “He didn’t talk about the law at all.”

A trial would be many months away after Snyder’s term as governor ends on Jan. 1. He said Lyon “has my full faith and confidence” and will remain as Michigan’s health director.

A courtroom spectator, Karina Petri, 30, of Milwaukee said sending a senior official to trial is “long overdue.”

“He withheld the truth. There’s no excuse,” said Petri, who wore a “Flint Lives Matter” shirt. “He could have changed hundreds of lives.”

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