Los Alamos lab deputy director resigns
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Director Beth Sellers says she is resigning because of potential conflict of interest issues involving a family member's lab consulting work.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Friday that a family member of Sellers received a lab consulting contract in 2012, but the relationship wasn't properly disclosed for evaluation of a conflict of interest.
Sellers says she spotted the mistake several months later and asked for a review by lab officials.
Lab director Charles McMillan has accepted Seller's resignation. She had been deputy director since December 2011.
Governor signs judicial-retirement overhaul
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation Friday to shore up the long-term finances of pension plans for judges and magistrates.
Under the new laws taking effect in July, judges and magistrates must contribute more of their salaries to their retirement plans and government employers will pay more.
New judges and magistrates - those who take office starting in July - must work eight years to qualify for a pension. That's up from five years for those already in office.
The judicial and magistrate retirement funds currently have less than three-fifths of the assets needed to cover future pension benefits. With the changes called for in the legislation, the funds should be fully funded or close to it in 30 years.
Martinez vetoed a bill that would have provided the retirement plans with extra revenue to improve their solvency.
The governor signed two bills making the pension changes.
Under the new laws, all magistrates and judges must participate in the retirement plans and make contributions. Currently, only about 60 percent of magistrates participate, which has aggravated the system's financial problems because it means only a small number of workers pay into a fund that must cover pensions for current and future retirees.
TROUBLED BORDER CITY
Councilor in troubled city withdraws, re-elected
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) - A councilor in a troubled New Mexico border city who withdrew from his race was re-elected this week anyway.
Sunland Park city councilor Christian Lira beat out three other opponents with 32 percent of the vote on Tuesday, and says he plans on remaining in office.
And now Lira plans on challenging longtime Rep. Mary Helen Garcia in the Democratic primary.
Lira publicly withdrew from his council race last month but not in time to get his name taken off the ballot. Lira says he didn't campaign because he was thinking about running for state representative.
But he says the results encouraged him even more to challenge Garcia.
Garcia, a retired school principal who is seeking her 10th term, says Lira will need to answer questions since he served on the council while Sunland Park faced financial ruin.
Albuquerque man pleads guilty to 4 bank robberies
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - An Albuquerque man could be facing more than 32 years in prison after pleading guilty to four armed bank robberies last year.
Prosecutors say 36-year-old James Charles Mollohan also pleaded guilty Friday to using a firearm during a violent crime.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, prosecutors say Mollohan will be sentenced to a prison term ranging from 27 years to 32 years.
His sentencing date hasn't been set yet.
Mollohan was accused of robbing four Albuquerque-area banks at gunpoint between Jan. 12, 2013, and Feb. 1, 2013.
He was arrested after the last robbery by Albuquerque police who say Mollohan was in possession of a loaded semi-automatic handgun and a large amount of cash.
Democrats to vet candidates at party convention
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A crowded field of Democratic candidates for governor will test their support among party activists at an event to determine who lands the top spot on the ballot in the June 3 primary race.
The pre-primary nominating convention on Saturday can serve as an early proving ground for candidates. However, critics say it diverts time and money from the goal of winning the primary and defeating Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in the November general election.
Five Democrats are seeking the gubernatorial nomination: Attorney General Gary King, state Sens. Linda Lopez and Howie Morales, Santa Fe businessman and political newcomer Alan Webber, and Lawrence Rael, a longtime state, local and federal government manager.
There also are contested primary races for other offices, including state treasurer.
To earn an automatic spot on the primary election ballot, candidates need the backing of at least 20 percent of the more than 1,500 convention delegates who could attend the event at Laguna Pueblo near Albuquerque.
Candidates will appear on the ballot based on the strength of their performance, with the top finisher listed first.
However, any candidate who misses the 20 percent threshold can still get on the ballot by submitting extra signatures on nominating petitions to the secretary of state.
FORECLOSURE DESPITE INSURANCE
Bank told to pay $3.2M for 'shocking' foreclosure
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico judge has issued a $3.2 million judgment against Wells Fargo & Co. for foreclosing on a man's home after his death, even though he had purchased an insurance policy through the bank that would have paid the remaining balance on his mortgage.
District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse says the bank's conduct was shocking and so reprehensible that in addition to actual damages, attorney's fees and court costs, she awarded James Dollens' estate $2.7 million in punitive damages.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo spokesman Jim Hines says the bank will appeal and it disagrees with several parts of the ruling, including the award of punitive damages.
Dollens had purchased an accidental death mortgage insurance policy for his Rio Rancho home that was marketed by Wells Fargo and issued by Minnesota Life. When he died Aug. 18, 2010, in a workplace accident, he owed $125,000 on his mortgage.
His death was reported immediately to Minnesota Life and to Wells Fargo to make a claim under the policy.
But instead of seeking funds from the insurance policy, Wells Fargo sent notices about the loan being in default and referred the loan for foreclosure in December 2010. The foreclosure proceeded despite requests from representatives of the estate to hold off pending the insurance payout.
T25-SAN DIEGO ST-FISHER
No. 10 SDSU faces No. 21 New Mexico for MWC title
SAN DIEGO (AP) - On Saturday night, the San Diego State Aztecs and New Mexico Lobos meet for the outright Mountain West Conference title, two weeks after New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow scored 26 points in the Lobos' 14-point victory against the Aztecs in Albuquerque.
These teams have dominated the league the last four seasons. New Mexico won regular-season titles in 2010 and last season, while SDSU shared titles in 2011 and 2012, first with BYU and then the Lobos.
New Mexico won the conference tournament each of the last two years, eliminating the Aztecs both years, including in the title game two seasons ago. SDSU won the tournament in 2010 and 2011.
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