Former Torrance County Sheriff and current Magistrate Judge Heath White has been charged with embezzlement.
According to KOAT, New Mexico State Police began their investigation of White after staff at the Torrance County Sheriff's Office discovered that around $150,000 worth of equipment and guns were missing earlier this year. According to investigators, White purchased items such as night vision goggles, auto parts and a number of guns—all of which went missing at the time of his departure from the Sheriff's Office in December.
A month after the investigation began, White reportedly contacted the Sheriff's Office and returned some of the missing items. Police conducted a search of White’s home, vehicle and the store he owns. According to State Police Chief Tim Johnson, some of the missing items were found at the store, raising questions about whether White had sold any of them.
Torrance County authorities say White will not be serving as a judge until the case has been concluded. He has been temporarily replaced.
Test Scores Removed From Teacher Evals
Officials with the New Mexico Public Education Department say that student test scores will no longer be included as part of annual teacher evaluations.
KOB reports that Deputy PED Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment sent a memo to superintendents and charter school leaders last week announcing that student test scores would be dropped from Transition Teacher Evaluation Reports for 2018 and 2019. Instead, the reports will be based on classroom observation, planning and surveys. Teachers unions have reportedly been pressuring state leaders to remove student test scores from the evaluations for years.
Last week Stephanie Ly, president of American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico, made a statement supporting PED Secretary Karen Trujillo's decision to implement a transitionary evaluation structure while officials work to develop a permanent system. Ly wrote that the decision was “a major step in the right direction to restore respect and professionalism for our educators.” She also said the federation was pleased with the inclusion of parent and student surveys but pressed PED to ensure that they were “scientifically accurate and statistically meaningful.”
Oil and Gas Blocked in Chaco Canyon
Last week an executive order was signed that protects thousands of acres of state land surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historic Park from oil and gas drilling.
According to the Carlsbad Current Argus, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard signed an executive order placing a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on State Trust land in the Greater Chaco Region. The order protects 72,776 acres from oil and gas development that experts say could potentially damage the World Heritage Site.
A press release from the State Land Office said the order also created the Chaco Canyon Land Office Working Group, an advisory board comprised of tribal communities, private land owners and government officials that will “make recommendations to the Land Office regarding land uses that may be more compatible with the nature of the Chaco area.” These will include “potential land exchanges” and “recommendations regarding land management in conjunction with tribal communities, private land owners, and the federal government.”
Native tribal leaders and environmentalists have applauded the order.