Today's News

  • Inept management at HSD shows in lawsuits, festering problems

    People remember Brent Earnest as a competent and well-liked legislative analyst. Then he joined the state Human Services Department as deputy secretary under Secretary Sidonie Squier, best known for the behavioral health disaster and her hostility to legislators.

    Squier decimated the state’s behavioral health system by accusing 15 providers of overbilling based on a deeply flawed audit. Then she halted their Medicaid funding, driving many out of business. When Squier departed in 2014, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, suggested Earnest as a replacement.

    “A lot of us in the Legislature have confidence in his ability and think he’s a genuinely caring person,” he said.

    Earnest got the nod but declared right off that he would uphold the same muddled agenda. The Senate confirmed him unanimously, probably expecting him to clean up the troubled department. Earnest just leaned into the wind and slogged on.

    Ortiz y Pino in May called for Earnest’s resignation.

    This was because of HSD’s other running disaster – a longstanding lawsuit over the department’s poor handling of SNAP (food stamp) applications. While Sidonie Squier owns the behavioral health mess, Earnest gets credit for the SNAP program’s advanced decay.

  • 3 of 4 University of New Mexico health sciences deans depart

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The University of New Mexico has some hiring to do after three of its four Health Sciences Center deans have decided to accept jobs at other colleges.

    Deans Lynda Welage and Nancy Ridenour are leaving for the University of Minnesota and Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis, respectively, and dean Deborah Helitzer is going to Arizona State University, The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2tjh9sK ).

    The last dean remaining, Health Sciences Chancellor and School of Medicine Dean Paul Roth, said the departures are unlike anything he’s ever seen. Roth conducted an exit interview with each of the three women, and none of them had one specific reason for leaving, he said.

    “This is the first time we’ve had all of this happening at the same time,” said Roth, who first came to the university in the late 1970s as a medical resident. “We kind of categorize when people leave: Is it that they’re being pushed out of the institution? Or are they being pulled places? And I think it would be very easy to say that in all of these cases, it’s a combination of both.”

  • Hearing for Smith’s shoplifter set for Thursday

    Joshua Padilla-Spanarkel, 22, of Santa Fe is scheduled to appear before Judge Pat A. Casados on Thursday for charges of shoplifting over $500 and conspiracy to commit a felony.

    The criminal complaint was filed by Los Alamos Police Department Corporal Sheldon Simpson.

    According to the arrest warrant affidavit written by Oliver Morris, on Feb. 3 around 2:47 p.m., “(A Smith’s employee) called

    LAPD dispatch to advise that two males shoplifted $429.79 worth of meat. Cpl. Simpson of LAPD obtained Smith’s surveillance video and he believed he identified the suspects as Noberto Garcia and Joshua Padilla-Spanarkel.”

    The Smith’s employee gave a vehicle description of a red Chevy truck and a Santa Fe Sheriff’s Deputy stopped the same vehicle about an hour later near the Cities of Gold Casino.

    “Both Joshua Padilla-Spanarkel and Noberto Garcia were in the truck wearing the same clothing Cpl. Simpson viewed in the surveillance video,” stated Morris.

    Padilla-Spanarkel wore a white t-shirt and jeans with a specific logo and Garcia wore jeans and a darker colored shirt.

  • PEEC’s passport program still going strong

    The Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s second Passport to the Pajarito Plateau program is in full swing this season, with over 1,000 people already taking PEEC’s challenge to hike the plateau’s 16 trails.

    Having to find that post and stencil in the symbol has proven to be one of the key components of the program’s success.

    “A lot of people have said to us that they need the motivation of the passport, that it really helps get them or their kids out there using the trails,” PEEC Executive Director Katherine Bruell said.  

    PEEC keeps track of how many people hiked each trail on boards it keeps at the center. For the program’s first year, the center tracked thousands of people.

    “This is only the people that come in to tell us,” PEEC Volunteer Coordinator Christa Tyson said. “There are probably even more people involved in this program that we don’t even know about.”

    Toddlers to 80-year-olds have taken part in the program.

    The first program was started on Earth Day 2016 and proved to be a huge success. Over 5,000 hikes were reported for that program, and since Earth Day 2017, PEEC has reported over 1,500 hikes.

  • Local police conduct warrant round-up

    The New Mexico State Police Santa Fe Uniform Bureau, along with the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico Adult Probation and Parole, conducted a warrant round up Friday.

    Four people were located and arrested.

    Mark Ramirez was arrested on an outstanding warrant for criminal sexual penetration, a second-degree

    Melinda Montoya was arrested for violating a DWI probation. 

    Elmer Ornelas was arrested on a warrant for burglary, and for failure to comply with child support requirements.

    Gabe Pacheco was arrested on warrants for traffic offenses.

    The New Mexico State Police in conjunction with local and federal agencies continually conduct warrant round-ups for absconders from justice.

  • US nuclear inspection results now concealed

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has thrown a cloak of secrecy over assessments of the safety and security of its nuclear weapons operations, a part of the military with a history of periodic inspection failures and bouts of low morale.

    Overall results of routine inspections at nuclear weapons bases, such as a “pass-fail” grade, had previously been publicly available. They are now off-limits. The change goes beyond the standard practice of withholding detailed information on the inspections.

    The stated reason for the change is to prevent adversaries from learning too much about U.S. nuclear weapons vulnerabilities. Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the added layer of secrecy was deemed necessary.

    “We are comfortable with the secrecy,” Hicks said Monday, adding that it helps ensure that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile.”

    Critics question the lockdown of information.

    “The whole thing smells bad,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists. “They’re acting like they have something to hide, and it’s not national security secrets.”

  • Water tests offered to Pojoaque Basin well owners

    Private well owners in the Pojoaque Basin can get free well water testing from noon -5 p.m. Friday at the Pojoaque High School Gymnasium.

    Santa Fe County, the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Department of Health are hosting a free Domestic Well Water Testing event for residents in the Pojoaque Basin with private wells serving homes not connected to a public water utility.

    The event will be held at the Pojoaque High School Gymnasium located at 1574 NM 502, Pojoaque.

    These free well water tests will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.  

    There will be two types of tests: lab tests, which include uranium testing, and in-field tests, which do not include uranium testing.

    The Pojoaque Basin is an area known for naturally occurring uranium.

    The lab tests will be offered to the first 500 participants with well water samples from within the Pojoaque Basin. Lab tests include laboratory analysis for iron, nitrate, arsenic, manganese, fluoride, uranium, electrical conductivity and pH.

  • Woman in possession of meth arrested June 20

    On June 20, Hazel Bucholz, 18, of Jemez Springs was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia while riding along Jemez Road in a stolen car.

    According to the statement of probable cause, Los Alamos Police Department Corporal Jemuel Montoya was dispatched to a report of a vehicle that was taken by a juvenile driver under the influence of drugs.

    Montoya encountered the car heading southbound on Jemez Road and after pulling over the car, proceeded to arrest the driver.

    Montoya asked all the passengers to get out so the car could be returned to its owner, which is when Montoya came upon Bucholz.

    “I asked Ms. Bucholz if she had any items on her person that I needed to be aware of,” said Montoya.

    Bucholz replied, “I have some needles in my bag.” Montoya asked if she had a card that allowed her to carry hypodermic needles to which she responded, “No.”

    When Montoya asked for them, “Ms. Bucholz removed a sunglasses case that contained hypodermic needles, one being loaded with clear liquid and a plastic box that contained an unknown crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine,” stated the police report.

    Bucholz was then placed into handcuffs and transported to the Los Alamos Detention Center.

  • Aspen Ridge hosts Business After Hours

    Around 100 people flowed through Aspen Ridge Lodge June 28 for Business After Hours, a networking event organized by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.

    Business After Hours is a monthly after-work-hours social that promotes interaction, friendship and identification of business opportunities.

    According to Chamber Director Nancy Partridge, the Chamber partners with the Los Alamos Retirement Community on one of the networking events at least once a year.

    In attendance were chamber members, community members and, of course, Aspen residents.

    People enjoyed an array of food prepared by the in-house cook at Aspen Ridge, Carlos.

    One particular organization that was represented at Business After Hours was the State of New Mexico Department of

    Workforce Solutions by Job Development Career Coach Michelle S. Stump.

    Stump explained that Workforce Solutions, in conjunction with the SUN PATH grant an UNM-LA, helps to place healthcare students into employment opportunities.

    Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC) is a private not-for-profit organization that has been active in Los Alamos since 1983.

    “Our mission is to build a vibrant community through a thriving economy,” according to the group’s website.

  • LA senior organization cuts budget shortfall to $48,000

    Monday was the first day of the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization’s fiscal year, and things are looking better than they were a few months ago.

    In May the organization, which runs the Betty Ehart and White Rock senior centers, was facing a $70,000 budget shortfall from cuts in state and federal funding.

    The group has managed to cut its deficit down to $48,000, thanks to donations from the community.

    It is hoping to further reduce the deficit through community support and sponsorships for its senior lunch program.

    Their first sponsored lunch program this year will be through the help of the Los Alamos branch of the New Mexico Bank and Trust.

    “...We are grateful that she gave us the opportunity to sponsor a lunch for them,” said NMBT Business Development Manager Tammy Thorn, of senior center and the executive director of the senior organization, Pauline Schneider.

    Though the lunch offer was suggested by the bank before the budget crisis began, Schneider is also hoping other businesses come forward to sponsor lunches.

    “That would be great,” Schneider said. “They could also do it for the White Rock program which is smaller, but just as important.”

    To contact Schneider, people and organizations can call the Betty Ehart Senior Center.