New Mexico’s attorney general has charged the mayor of a troubled city with six felony bribery and abuse of power counts following an investigation that began in 2018.
Las Vegas Optic reports that Las Vegas Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron is accused of bid-rigging, fraud and abuse of power. Last year, the attorney general's office raided Gurule-Giron’s home, city hall and the home of Marvin Salazar, the owner of Gemini Construction. Police said Salazar was Gurule-Giron’s boyfriend and accused the pair of conspiring to rig city bids in favor of Salazar's company.
The mayor allegedly used her position to award a hardwood flooring contract to Gemini Construction in 2016 even though it had been underbid by Price’s Furnishings. A note was reportedly written at the bottom of the bid, claiming that Price's did not do hardwood flooring.
Gurule-Giron was also accused of asking the former public works manager for Las Vegas to reveal the cost of a construction project before the bid had been awarded—presumably to gain an advantage in bidding. When she was told that it would violate the procurement code, she reportedly responded: “I am the chief operating executive officer of the city, and I was elected to know everything, and I will know everything.”
She also made a $10,000 emergency purchase order for a water leak that City Hall officials say was unnecessary.
An arraignment for Gurule-Giron is scheduled in the courtroom of Abigail Aragon at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.
NM Gas Co. Proposes Rate Hike
Last week, the New Mexico Gas Company filed a rate increase request with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission that would add up to a 4.2 percent gas bill increase.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the gas company estimates an average 50-therm monthly residential bill would increase about $1.71 if the proposed $13.23 million rate increase is approved by the PRC. An increase in the residential customer access fee from $11.65 to $12.70 was also proposed.
The gas company is reportedly requesting the rate increase to cover capital investments from September 2017 through 2021, including a new $50 million mainline from Bernalillo to Santa Fe, the purchase of an $11.2 million headquarters building and constructing a $15 million pipeline south of Carlsbad.
A PRC decision is expected by next fall with implementation in 2021.
Gladstone Wind Farm Leased
An Illinois-based company that develops wind farms won a bid for thousands of acres of New Mexico state trust land.
The Associated Press reports that potential bidders for the 7,636 acres of state land were given weeks to apply with a November deadline. PNE USA Inc. won the bid, and the lease was approved and signed by Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard last week. The application reportedly won out because of a bonus $110,000 bid made by the company.
PNE USA says it plans to build its next wind farm project on the land—located in Union and Colfax counties. The Gladstone Wind Farm will also include 8,000 acres of private land. Energy officials say the portion of the project located on state trust land is expected to generate 31 megawatts of electricity—enough capacity to power about 6,200 homes—and around $8 million over the course of the lease.