Last Update: Friday, Sept. 2, 2016
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Friday, Sept. 2, 2016

AND HE'S OFF: Josh Foley (hidden by teammate) is off to the races with a 99-yard interception return on the last play of the first half in Friday's game.

Rams, Storm win home openers
after weather delays kickoffs

Foley's 99-yard INT return lifts Rio Rancho;
Cleveland holds off La Cueva in closing moments


Back in the early days of football, when there were no rules requiring players to wear certain numbers based on their primary position, players like Red Grange (77) and Tom Harmon (98) excited collage fans nationwide with their exploits while playing both offense and defense.

Rio Rancho’s Josh Foley wears 21 on his back. But maybe you should just call him Mr. 99.

Last week the 5-11, 195 pound senior rushed for more than 300 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown, as the Rams knocked off then No. 1-Mayfield in the season opener in Las Cruces. 

On Friday it was the home opener and the other side of the ball, but Foley went 99 yards again – this time on an interception return on the final play of the first half – as the top-ranked Rams defeated El Paso Americas 31-7 in a game delayed 30 minutes at the start due to weather.

"Talk about a big play right there in the end zone -- 99 seems to be his number," Rio Rancho coach David Howes said. "He's a special player. He's really holding the ship together."

Up the road a few miles away, Cleveland remained unbeaten, holding off a furious rally by Albuquerque La Cueva for a 38-37 victory. Storm quarterback Angelo Trujillo threw two touchdown passes and again went for more than 300 yards in total offense, but Cleveland had to turn away a two-point conversion attempt by the visiting Bears to improve to 2-0.

The start of that game was also delayed about 30 minutes due to lightning in the area.

At Rio Rancho High the Rams took advantage of turnovers to overwhelm the second-ranked team in El Paso. 

It wasn’t like Foley didn’t deliver on offense, scoring one rushing and one receiving touchdown. It’s just the long,

BREAKING FREE: Josh Foley takes a short pass and turns it into the first touchdown of the game.

spectacular runs he had last week were shut down by the Americas’ defense.

The Trail Blazers blazed no trails in the first half, fumbling on their first possession to set up Foley’s 27-yard catch and run delivered by quarterback Nick Little. 

After the Ram defense forced a three-and-out on the next Americas possession, Rio Rancho took possession at its own 45. The Rams marched to the 19, where Foley finished the drive.

That score, came with 6:18 left in the opening quarter and it seemed like the rout would be on. But as college studio analyst Lee Corso is fond of saying, not so fast my friend.

Rio Rancho had a second-quarter drive stall and settled for an attempted field goal. But Little’s kick was blocked, and that seemed to give the visitors some momentum.

Starting at their own 27, the Trail Blazers used a series of short passes to drive for their only score of the night. Joshua Fields capped the drive with an 8-yard run and suddenly it seemed Americas was back in the game and had the momentum.

But not for long. Rio Rancho responded with a drive of its own, with Little hitting Austin Hise with a scoring pass with 3:04 to open the margin back to 14.

After an exchange of punts, Americas again used the short, quick passing game to move close. But that’s when Foley stepped in, literally, to turn the tide for good, picking off Americas quarterback Cristian Estorga and taking it down the home sideline for the score.

Foley said he was looking for a particular pass patter Americas runs where the receiver goes one direction and comes back, trying to hide his actual intent with an initial move to run off the defender.

"I knew they have been running those hides on the goal line, and we've been working on it all week in practice," Foley said. "I knew he went really inside so he was going to come back out and hide, and I just read it.

"I was just there -- right time, right place."

DIVING CATCH: An Americas wide receiver makes a catch on Rio Rancho defensive back Andrew Lovato (12).


The second half was mostly a defensive struggle, with both teams walking off the field at the end of the game knowing
they had been in a physical contest. The only score after intermission was a 32-yard field goal by Little late in the third quarter.

It was a very physical game. Foley sat out the entire second half with a tight hamstring but was moving well in the post-game locker room. Little missed three plays at one point after taking a hard hit, and at least one other player was helped off the field  with a leg injury.

After 357 yards in less than three quarters last week, Foley gained just 21 against Americas.

"They stacked the box with seven people, and we knew that going in," Foley said. "So we had to air the ball out tonight, and our wide receivers and quarterback did a good job."

The three-first half takeaways by the Rams prevented the Trail Blazers from keeping momentum for very long and helped bury Americas into the early 14-point hole that forced them to change their game plan.

"They've got a good football team, and when you play a good football team you can't make the mistakes that we made at the times that we made them," Americas head coach Patrick Melton said. “Two times we drive to the five yard line and throw a pick (interception), and one of them is a pick six. We've got a new starting quarterback and we've got to work that out.

"They did a great job. Their defensive front is very aggressive. What's crazy is we never throw the ball, and we threw the ball all over the place (42 attempts). 

"I felt like we should have gone into halftime up 21-14, and instead we were down 28-7. Those things happen. That's why they put the word coach in front of our names. We've got to go fix it."

Though pleased with the overall team effort, Hawes seemed especially pleased with his defense. Unofficially, Rio Rancho held Americas to 72 rushing yards on 30 carries.

"The defense just played an outstanding football game," he said. "That is a great running back (Fields, who rushed for 1,658 yards last year), a fast running back. And they’ve got a big offensive line that is going to do some damage in El Paso. For these kids to come out and stone them like that – I’m very pleased.

"Our special teams were pretty sound, and obviously the offense did exactly what they had to do and took care of the football. They kept moving the ball and keeping the chains moving.  Our special teams were pretty sound. Special teams were pretty solid. 

‘We're very pleased."

Both city teams take to the road again next Friday. Rio Rancho High plays at Clovis; Cleveland goes back to Las Cruces to play Centennial at the Field of Dreams, its new home away from home.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016
Jury finds councilor guilty
of filing false police report


A six-person jury found Rio Rancho  city councilor David L. Bency guilty of filing a false police report that alleged his runoff election opponent, Lonnie Clayton, had damaged one of his campaign signs

Bency said he would appeal.

“I did nothing wrong,” Bency said outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced, “I relied on a third-party witness who waffled on me.

“I am very disappointed.” 

The jury deliberated for 100 minutes before returning with its verdict. 

Jury foreman Chad George said, "There were a few questions but most of them were taken care of” (by witness testimony or evidence.

"It was pretty clear to us."

The jury apparently believed the testimony of two Rio Rancho Police Department officers and Joe Nieto, a long-time friend of Bency’s who witnessed the incident and told him about it. Bency was the only witness called by defense attorney Bill Tryon.

Special prosecutor Mark Drebig emphasized that Nieto said in statements to police that he could not positively identify who damaged Bency’s sign located near the Meadowlark, only provide a description of an elderly white man.

Bency testified that he sent Nieto a text message asking if he could positiel6 identify Clayton and received a one-word response: "Yes."

Evidence of the text message was not produced in court. It is important because to sustain the charge, the prosecution is required under the law to prove a person accused of filing a false report had knowledge at the time that the statement was false.

Bency said he attempted to obtain that deleted text message from his cell phone provider but was informed it would require a court order.

Drebing said that Bency filed the report in an attempt to gain a “tactical advantage” in the April 12 runoff election, noting that Bency requested extra copies of his statement, the inference being he provided those copies to the media. 

Bency testified as a long-time public official that he did have a good relationship with the media and he wanted it known that his campaign had been damaged by the property damage to his sign.

In contrast, Tryon did not ask witnesses how news media reports that Bency had been counter-charged came out the day after the police complaint was filed in Magistrate Court at 3:44 p.m. Nor did he introduce any evidence regarding the “Bad4NM” web site or Candidate Honesty Committee which posted information and signs on “Bency’s false report” before the police complaint in Magistrate Court.

Drebing said it would be up to the city to decide if it wanted to keep him on as prosecutor during an appeal, but it would seem unlikely from his experience if the city would change legal counsel at this juncture.

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

Voters OK RRPS bond by 
an overwhelming margin


Rio Rancho voters overwhelmingly approved a $60 million bond issue Tuesday for its public school district, meaning a new elementary and preschool will be coming within the next four years.

Two-thirds of the money will be spent to build Joe Harris Elementary school in either Unit 10 or Unit 11, and a new Shining Stars Elementary School which has deteriorated beyond repair.

Voters at two schools that will receive relief from severe overcrowding turned out in big numbers in favor of the bond issue. Both Ernest Stapleton, built for 800 students but now at almost 1,000, and Maggie Cordova both turned out 331 affirmative votes and had less than 100 against, according to unofficial figures provided by the Sandoval County Bureau of Elections.

Three schools had remarkably similar numbers on Election Day.  Mountain View Middle School and Maggie Cordova each had 470 voters; Ernest Stapleton had 460. Mountain View had the most negative votes (115) of five Election Day voting convenience centers.

Totals for early and Election Day voting were also very similar. A few more people voted early (1,856) than Election Day (1,825), yet the vote spread (1,446 to 410 early; 1,408 to 417 on Tuesday.)

Only 22 people cast absentee votes; the margin there was 18-4.

Totals are unofficial and do not include provisional or in lieu of ballots that will be evaluated before the official canvass on Friday, Sept. 9.

Slightly more than 60,100 voters were eligible, meaning the turnout was approximately 6.16 percent. 

A total of 4,008 people voted in the 2012 bond issue election, according to official results, about 7.72 of eligible voters at the time.

No matter the raw numbers, school bond issues seem to be popular with voters. A total of 65.5 percent of voters approved the 2012 bond issue; 77.6 were in favor of the bond issue in this election.

In a statement released by the district, Superintendent Sue Cleveland said, “We have been so fortunate to operate in a community that truly believes in education and understands its value. Our community has supported every bond since day one and we appreciate their continued support. 

“The $60 million bond will allow Rio Rancho Public Schools to continue to build for the future and ensure we have safe, well-maintained buildings for generations to come. In addition, it will allow us to provide our students with access to state-of-the-art technology.”

The school board will determine at it second meeting of September what projects will receive top priority, but it appears building Joe Harris Elementary to relieve overcrowding is high on that list. Only $15 million will be available each year of the four-year bond, so some projects will have to be phased in.

2016 RRPS Bond Election Unofficial Results

Early Voting For Agaomst Total

Loma Coloardo Library 1 479 168 647
Loma Colorado Library 2 489 158 647
Loma Colorado Total 968 326 1,294

Sandoval BOE 1 439 38 477
Sandoval BOE 2 39 46 85
Sandoval BOE Total 478 84 562

Early Voting Total 1,446 410 1,856

Absentee Total 22 4 26
Election Day For Against Totals
Colinas Del Norte 1 79 11 90
Colinas Del Norte 2 78 11 80
Colinas Del Norte Total 157 22 179

Ernest Stapleton 1 183 46 229
Ernest Stapleton 2 188 43 231
Ernest Stabpleton Total 371 89 460

Maggie Cordova 1 184 51 235
Maggie Cordova 2 187 48 235
Maggie Cordova Total 371 99 470

Mountian View 1 191 49 240
Mountan View 2 164 66 230
Mountain View Total 355 115 470

Rio Rancho 1 124 49 173
Rio Rancho 2 130 43 163
Rio Rancho Total 154 92 246

Election Day Total 1,408 417 1,825


Early Voting Totals 1,446 410 1,856
Absentee Voting Totals   22   4    26
Election Day 1,408 417 1,825
Total Votees 2,876 831 3,707
Total Votes Percentage 77.6% 22.4% 100%

Totals do not include provisional or in lieu of ballots that will be evaluated before the official canvass on Friday, Sept. 9.

Slightly more than 60,100 voters were eligible, meaning the turnout was approximately 6.16 percent.

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

BREAKING FREE: Cleveland quarterback Angelo Trujillo (1) gets through the Onate defense at the start of a 54-yard run. He capped the drive with a four-yard TD run to tie the game in the second quarter.

Defense, Trujillo lift Storm
past Onate in season opener


LAS CRUCES – Last year, in producing an undefeated state championship team and one of the best squads in New Mexico history, the Cleveland Storm simply blew out opponents with a high-powered offense.

This year, just how far Cleveland can go in its defense of the blue trophy the New Mexico Activities Association gies to its champion may well come down to defense..

The visiting Storm shut out Las Cruces Onate for the final three quarters, bailing Cleveland out several times after poor special team play had the Knights on the verge of scoring. The last came in the closing moments and helped Cleveland preserve a 24-14 victory at the Field of Dreams in the season opener for both teams.

Cleveland quarterbsck Anthony Trujillo was a big part of the game as well as Cleveland ground out 10-second half points to break a 14-14 halftime tie. Trujillo passed for 155 yards and rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon.

But it was the defense that was especially dominant, repeatedly stopping Onate’s rushing attack and putting on enough pressure to squelch the Knights’ passing game.

Onate managed just 39 yards of total offense (23 rushing and 16 passing) after intermission compared to 139 yards (138 on the ground) in the first half. Onate’s second-half drives ended in a missed field goal, two lost fumbles and three punts.

Still, the Knights were in the game until the final moments. Cleveland was trying to preserve its 24-14 lead but couldn’t run out the clock and was forced to punt.

Or attempt to punt, that is. For the second time the Knights blocked the Cleveland kick, with senior James Martin breaking through the line and getting a hand on the ball, and Onate recovered just 14 yards from the goal line.

But the Storm giveth, the Storm taketh away – momentum that is. On the very next play the Cleveland defense forced a fumble and recovered to end the Onate drive, and their hopes of a last-minute comeback.

Special teams play helped keep Onate in the second half. Not only did they force mistakes by the Storm but every kickoff went into the end zone and excellent punting kept Cleveland pinned its own territory much of the humid, sweltering afternoon.

To say that Cleveland’s special team play was bad is putting it mildly. Just ask Cleveland head coach Heath Ridenour for some words.

“Atrocious. Terrible. Horrendous. Embarrassing,” he said. “They won the special teams game, no doubt about it. Fortunately we were able to make some plays.

“Our quarterback was big for us running the ball. This was the first game he has played as a 6A varsity quarterback and I thought he did a terrific job running it for us.” 

Ridenour didn’t want to go into specifics on what was different in the second half and give away any secrets to future opponents. “We made a couple of adjustments on defense at halftime, and the kids bought into it and got it done,” he said.  “We needed to be sound on the (fullback) dive, quarterback and pitch (to the halfback). 

“We were a little off in the first half but we got back on in the second half.”

Onate head coach Brent Jaquess spent much of his time working with his defense so he didn’t see much of his offense struggle against the Storm defense. What he did see was “They clamped down on the outside and forced everything back inside. They made plays when they had to make plays. 

“Our passing game wasn’t as effective as it needed to be. That was a huge thing. We had some open receivers and we’ve got to hit them.”

Both coaches seemed satisfied with how their teams played in the first half.

“We did some things,” Jaques said. “We were in it. I thought we were in it all the way until we blocked that punt and then turned the ball back over.

“They are a quality team and a quality program, and they keep putting pressure on you.  I think we’ll get some good out of this, knowing we can pretty much play,. They’re going to get better and hopefully we’re going to get better.”

Said Ridenour: “We’re so young. It’s high school football. You’ve got to get better each week. 

“That group we had last year was a special group, and we did something really special with them. But the year before they were young kids too.

"Young kids grow grow and grow week to week and they make mistakes. But when you make those mistakes (the question is) are you able to bounce back, are you going to fold and take that loss.

"I think we showed a lot of toughness and tenacity and kept playing the whole game.”

The Storm broke the halftime deadlock with 8:01 left in the third period when Jacob Esquibel kicked a 27-yard field goal. The score was set up by a78-yard pass and run play from Trujillo to Adam Cook.

BIG PLAY NO. 1: Cleveland quarterback Anthony Trujillo launches a pass toward tight end Adam Cook (2) early in the third quarter. Click here to see what happened next.

With the Cleveland defense in control,  that narrow lead felt like a million points, but the Storm added a fourth-quarter touchdown just to make sure. Niko Papadopoulos scored from two yards out with 6:07 left in the game, a run set up in part by a pass interference call against Onate.

BIG PLAY NO. 2: Nick Papadopoulos crosses the goal line midway through the fourth quarter for a touchdown to put the Storm up 10 points. To see the pass interference play that set up the score, click here. 

The victory by the third-ranked Storm over No/ 5 Onate capped a good weekend for Rio Rancho high school football here. On Friday night No. 2 Rio Rancho High defeated No. 1 Las Cruces Mayfield 34-7 in a game called in the third quarter due to lightning.

The Storm play at home on Friday against traditional Albuquerque power La Cueva, while Rio Rancho plays its home opener against Americas High from El Paso. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.

For those who believe in planning ahead, the two schools play each other at Cleveland on Oct. 7 in what could be another No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. More importantly, it will be the District 1-6A opener for both teams.

Frodau. Aug. 26, 2016

SEE YOU LATER: Rio Rancho running back Nick Foley breaks through the Mayfield secondary on his way to a 99 1/2 yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Friday's game in Las Cruces.

Rams storm past Mayfield
in battle of top-ranked teams


LAS CRUCES – With ominous clouds and lighting bolts dancing all around the stadium, it was Josh Foley who rained on the home team’s Homecoming parade.

Foley rushed for 331 yards and three touchdowns in less than three full quarters, including a 99½ yard second quarter sprint, as No. 2 Rio Rancho High pelted No. 1 Las Cruces Mayfield in a game finally called late in the third period due to lightning.

Bolts of lightning began appearing south of the stadium as the teams went through their pregame drills, and steadily moved closer as the contest progressed. Pouring rain finally erupted with just under five minutes left in the third quarters, and officials allowed a few more plays to be run before lightning appeared to close that it could have placed anyone – players, coaches, officials and spectators – at risk. 

Referees waited just over 30 minutes before calling the game with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter. Tracking radar indicated a brief respite after the initial storm, but a bigger weather cell was to the west and moving in the same path.

After the game was called both teams came out of their locker rooms and exchanged the traditional post-game handshakes.

Before the rain, Foley and his teammates turned the Field of Dreams into a Quagmire of Nightmares for the Trojans. Rio Rancho built up a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter before surrendering a long touchdown pass in the final minute of the half, but Mayfield could never get untracked in the second half before the storm put them out of their misery.

The Rams finished with 453 yards, all but 61 of it on the ground. The Trojans, meanwhile, couldn't sustain drives in large part because of bad center-quarterback exchanges in the Trojan shotgun offense. Mayfield had five fumbles in the first half, removing them all, including four miscues that appeared mostly to be bad snaps.

“It was a mixture of snaps and nerves out of the quarterback (Tony Locklin),” Mayfield coach Michael

ON THE BALL: Mayfield quarterback Tony Locklin recovers a fumble in the first quarter.

Bradley said. “They just couldn't get it together. When they did, they started doing pretty darn good. We had the ability to move the ball when we were playing together.”

Mayfield finished with 144 yards in total offense – including 188 passing -- but had a net loss of 44 yards rushing because of the fumbles and swarming defense by the Rams.

"Our defense played really, really well. They were fast to the ball,” Rio Rancho coach David Howes said. 

"I'm proud of the way our kids responded. They played well for the first week. To come down to Mayfield and win is always something special.

“We ran the ball really well, too. That's what we came here to do. We’re real pleased to get out of here with a win."

Bradley seemed almost shell shocked after the game.

"A lot of mistakes on offense and defense, and you can't do that against a team like Rio Rancho," he said. ""They're all that they're built up to be. We are nothing like we were built up to be. We didn't build ourselves up. Everybody else built us up.

"We made way too many errors for the first game, and Rio Rancho played a pretty solid game. 

"We've got a few guys were out that I'm sure could have helped us. We'll be back. We'll get better."

Hawes said being ranked behind the Trojans in preseason polls wasn’t a motivating factor for his team.
“We don't think about rankings,” he said. “All that matters is who is ranked No. 1 at the end.”

Both teams tried to set an early tone by starting with trick plays. And in essence they did.

Rio Rancho ran an end-around play with Cailon Bailon gained 33 yards, starting what turned out to be a seven-play touchdown drive capped by a three-yard scoring run by Foley. The extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Rams had a 6-0 lead just 65 seconds into the game and never looked back.

SETTING THE TONE: Cailon Bailon carries the ball
for a big gain on Rio Rancho's first play.


After a 30-yard kickoff return, Mayfield tried a halfback pass on its first play. It appeared to be wide open, but instead fell incomplete. On the very next play the Trojans lost 12 yards on their first fumbled center-quarterback exchange.

Thus the tone was indeed set. Rio Rancho: successful end run leads to a touchdown; Mayfield: missed opportunity on a halfback option is followed by a fumble that killed a drive.

After a Rio Rancho drive stalled at the Mayfield 26, again the two teams had similar circumstances that ended up with opposite results. Mayfield couldn’t overcome personal foul and intentional grounding penalties mixed in with another big loss on a fumble; Rio Rancho made up for a holding call with a 46-yard touchdown run by Foley.

GONE AGAIN: Foley breaks free for a 46-yard
touchdown run.


The next drive: Two Mayfield fumbles result in big losses and good Rio Rancho field position; quarterback Nick Little ends the Ram drive with a six-yard TD run resulting in a 20-0 Rio Rancho lead.

After stopping a Rio Rancho drive at its own 27 with 4:44 left in the half, the Trojans marched within the shadow of the Ram goal line. With the ball at the 4, Mayfield fumbled at the goal line and the Rams recovered inside its own 1.

Foley put the game away, in essence, on the very next play, breaking free for a 99½ yard run that will be a school record that can never be topped, only tied. 

Locklin, a strong-armed junior lefthander starting his first game, beat the Rio Rancho secondary for a 56-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Swinson with 38 seconds left in the half. But Mayfield couldn’t regain the momentum after halftime, going three-and-out the only two times it had the ball before the rain came.

Little closed out the scoring with a 15-yard TD run in the third quarter.

Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

PAC knew in advance of
charge against Bency


The political action committee that used a web site and road signs to attack then-city councilor candidate Dave Bency during the April runoff election apparently had advance notification that Rio Rancho police were going to file a misdemeanor charge against him.

In fact, according to documents provided to following a request to inspect public records, Larry Ross, treasurer for the Candidate Honesty Committee, was aware of the charge three days before police contacted Bency about the allegation and a full week before the case was actually filed in Sandoval County Magistrate Court.

According to the documents, Ross submitted an application to the city’s development department to obtain sign stickers required of all candidates and political action committees that want to post signs in the public right of way. One requirement on the application is a drawing identifying the size and content of the sign.

According to the city records, Ross submitted an application on Friday, April 1, including a sketch showing a 24 x 18 inch sign with the words “Bency’s False Police Report” and the web address “”

The police report on the incident states that Rio Rancho police officer Gregory Herrera first contacted Bency the following Monday, April 4. After Bency engaged legal counsel and attempted to set up a meeting for the following week, Herrera filed a criminal complaint with Magistrate Court on Thursday, April 7 at 3:44 p.m.

Signs replicating the sketch Ross made on his application appeared within District 6, including the entrance to Rivers Edge II where Bency lives, early that morning before the criminal complaint was filed in Magistrate Court. captured a screen shot of the web site allegation on April 5, two days before the criminal complaint was filed.

Reports that the complaint had been filed surfaced the next day, April 8, just in time for print media to make an initial report in advance of the runoff election on April 12.

Attempts to discredit Bency with the last-minute attack failed; he defeated incumbent Lonnie Clayton with 71.3 percent of the vote in the runoff.

Contacted by, Ross declined to comment.

Only five people have been associated with the Candidate Honesty Committee to date. Ross is listed as treasurer on campaign finance reports filed with the city. Dave Heil, a candidate for the Sandoval County Commission seat in District 4,  is the registered owner of the Bad4NM web site. And campaign finance reports listed three donors -- city councilor Cheryl Everett; her husbandy, Harry Gordon; and a "Reform Sandoval County PAC" that has the same address as Sandoval County Commissioner Don Chapman.

Among the expenses include a the committee lists is a $150 donation for campaign flier listed to the home address of Clayton. In total the CHS raised and spent $1,047.62

The city has continued to prosecute its case against Bency, employing retired Bernalillo County prosecutor Mark Drebing as its legal representative. A special prosecutor was needed after 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez declined to prosecute the case, citing a lack of evidence, and former city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown recused herself because of a conflict of interest, having already provided Bency with legal advice on city council matters.

According to an employment agreement provided by the city as part of a separate request under the Inspection of Public Records Act, Drebing is being paid $120 an hour to prosecute the case on behalf of Rio Rancho. So far he has submitted invoices for $2,350 for work provided in May, June and July.

Bency is facing a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor, as set by state law, is $1,000 and/or a year in jail, plus court costs. 

The law leaves sentencing to the discretion of the judge, in this case Delilah Montano-Baca.

The trial begins Thursday at 10 a.m.

Click here to see supporting documents and links.

Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

GOVERNING BODY: The Rio Rancho Governing Body, as now constituted (from left to right) is now made up of Jim Owen, District 1; Dawnn Robinson, District 2; Cheryl Everett, District 3; Mayor Gregg Hull; Marlene Feuer, District 4, Jennifer Flor, District 5; and Dave Bency, District 6.


A majority of Rio Rancho's Governing Body
is female for the first time ever in the city


History was made at Wednesday’s meeting of the Rio Rancho City Council as Jennifer Flor was sworn in to represent District 5, meaning the city’s Governing Body has a majority of female members for the first time in its 35-year history.

Flor was picked from a field of 13 by Mayor Gregg Hull to replace Shelby Smith, who resigned effective July 31 to move to Arizona for family health reasons. Her appointment was unanimously approved by the council, with Hull voting in Smith’s place.

More history will likely be made at the next meeting of the Governing Body on Sept. 14. Hull announced he would be in Florida to attend his daughter’s wedding, meaning Deputy Mayor Dawnn Robinson would be the presiding officer. It is believed to be the first time a woman will fill that role in city history, though Robinson has presided over a council work session in the past in Hull’s absence.

Hull said the city is planning a town hall meeting for Flor on Sept. 7 at the Cabezon Recreation Center where

New District 5 city councilor Jennifer Flor accepts congratulations from Mayor Gregg Hull after being sworn in by City Clerk Steve Ruger (right).

constituents can meet their new councilor and present their concerns. The city hopes to announce final details later this week.

Flor wasn’t confirmed and sworn in until the end of the meeting, meaning she did not have to weigh in on the evening’s most controversial issue, approval of the Unit 10 Specific Area Plan. The discussion was classic Rio Rancho – land developers and business interests on one side, existing residents on the other.

Interwoven in the discussion were two previous agenda items where the  council had to remand back to the Planning and Zoning Commission the Unser Pavilion Master Plan and rezoning of certain lots in that area. One property owner, Jim Achen, asked in a letter to the city dated Aug. 10 that his lot be pulled from the rezoning request.

Jeannie Springer, the principal partner of the Springer 5 Investments development group, said negotiations are ongoing to purchase the land from Achen to create a contiguous land area more suited for business development. 

Achen’s lot, formally identified as Unit 10, Block 25, Lot 26, is at one end of the consolidated land group, meaning that it might be possible for the Springer group to simply build around it.

Several residents who have built homes in the half-million dollar range (and up) nearby asked the council not to approve the Unit 10 area plan that identifies certain areas as candidates for commercial development. But several councilors, including Jim Owen of District 1 who has all of Unit 10 in the area he represents, pointed out it would still take action by both the P & Z and Governing Body before any land is actually rezoned for commercial development.

In other business the council:

*Approved the purchase of 56.7 acre feet of water rights from James E. and Rosa Lee Miller at the cost of $822,150.

*Heard a report from the Parks and Recreation Commission as part of a series of presentations made annually by boards and commissions.

*Formally approved the city’s capital outlay priority list of projects to be presented to area state legislators in advance of the 2017 session.

Saturday, Aug. 20

SHARING THE STATE: The Libertarian Party ticket -- former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson -- appeared at a campaign rally in Albuquerque on Saturday.


Ex-Gov. Johnson comes to NM 
for presidential campaign rally


ALBUQUERQUE -- Former Gov. Gary Johnson returned to his home state Saturday, bringing his Libertarian Party ideas and presidential nomination to a rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Johnson talked mostly policy during his speech to several hundred supporters, leaving his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, his children and others to convince people that a vote for Johnson-Weld is not simply taking a vote away from major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Speaking to reporters in a pre-rally news conference, Johnson noted most major polls have the ticket at 10 percent, about double six weeks ago. The National Commission has set a 15 percent threshold to participate in the debates later this fall.

Weld noted polls only show Johnson with a 30 percent name recognition, the idea being if that number goes up the support will increase nationally as well.

Republican State Sen. Lisa Torraco, who formally endorsed Johnson and Weld as the first speaker, put it this way: “If Gary Johnson can win New Mexico, he can be president.”

The scenario is this: Johnson-Weld may not win the election outright but wins a few states, thus denying either the Democrats or Republicans the White House outright. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to become president; if the major parties split those votes otherwise it wouldn’t take much to throw the election to the House of Representatives (think Bush 271, Gore 269 in 2000).


SUNDAY IS FUNDAY: The 11th annual Mayor's Picnic/Sunday is Funday is this weekend from noon to 4 p.m. at Haynes Park. Admission is $1 for anyone above age 12. Proceeds go to local youth programs. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016

Local political issues heating up this week

Judge excludes 2 city witnesses 
in misdemeanor case against Benc

Utilities Commission recommends dropping
$750,000 water franchise fee payment

Feud between county treasurer, administration
back with proposed investment policy changes 

Developing stories that will be updated.


As the long, scorching summer draws to a close, some of the really hot issues in local government are heating up this week.

Two witnesses the city of Rio Rancho wanted to call in its case against Councilor David Bency were disallowed Tuesday morning, apparently leaving just a lone police officer to testify for the prosecution at the Sept. 1 trial.

Please see BENCY by clicking here

Tuesday night, the city Utilities Commission voted 5-2 to recommend that the franchise fee the city-owned water utility currently pays to the city’s general fund be discontinued.

This comes after Mayor Gregg Hull said at a city council meeting in late July that he would not forward such a recommendation to the Governing Body.

Click here for more of this part of the story.

And on Thursday, the long-standing feud the Sandoval County Commission and administration has with county treasurer Laura Montoya will likely boil over during the Board of Finance meeting. 

Click here for more of this part of the story.

Friday, Aug. 12, 2016

Hull picks former city employee
to replace Smith in District 5

'Stay at home mom' Flor also an engineer

Jennifer Flor, a former city employee, engineer and current self-described "stay at home mom," is Mayor Gregg Hull's choice to replace Shelby Smith as the city councilor in District 5.

Hull made the announcement by news release late Friday afternoon. If confirmed by the Governing Body at its next  meeting  on Aug. 24, Hull has said previously he plans to swear her in immediately and have her seated as a councilor immediately.

Smith resigned effective the end of last month to move to Arizona for family considerations.

According to her letter of interest and resume, Flor served as a project engineer for the city from October 2013 to September 2014, when Hull  said she left the city to have a child. Prior to that she was a civil engineer with Wilson & Company beginning in July 2007.

Flor also lists experience as a  transportation engineer intern at URS Corporation in Albuquerque from June 2006 to June 2007 and as an assistant engineer for the city of La Mesa, Calif., from June 2005 to May 2006.

A licensed engineer in both New Mexico and Oregon, Flor's resume cites "eight years experience in drainage engineering, site development, roadway design and master planning."

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the headline FLOR.

Mayor says picking new councilor
an 'incredibly difficult decision'


In choosing political newcomer Jennifer Flor as the replacement for Shelby Smith in city councilor District 5, Mayor Gregg Hull surprised many in making “an incredibly difficult decision.”

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the headline HULL

Friday, Aug.5, 2016


Clayton, Salzman appointed to Charter Review committee


It’s the Rio Rancho version of the Hatfields and McCoys.

Bitter political rivals Marilyn Salzman and Lonnie Clayton were both appointed to the latest Charter Review Commission on Thursday, putting two former District 6 city councilors in the same room when they could barely exist is the same city in the past.

About the only thing they have in common is they both live on the same street in Rivers Edge. Clayton is a conservative Republican, Salzman a liberal Democrat. Clayton still lives with his wife Nancy; Salzman is widowed and lives with her cat. Clayton is retired, though he was recently appointed to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission; Salzman is the president of the west side affiliate of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

There is something else. They hate each other.

“Hate” is one of those red-flag words that journalists are taught to avoid for fear of a libel suit. But truth is also a defense in such litigation and is the most accurate word to use here.

It all goes back to 2002. Then mayor (now city councilor Jim Owen) appointed Clayton to fill the term of (now councilor) Dave Bency, who left when elected to the Sandoval County Commission.

When the District 6 seat held by Clayton came up in 2004, Salzman and Todd Hathorne ran against the incumbent. There has been a change of boundaries since then – the Enchanted Hills subdivision was a part of District 6 (it is now in District 3). Vista Hills, then in District 4, is now in District 6.

Clayton was upset that Salzman, once a supporter, would run against him and split the Rivers Edge vote. Things really heated up when Salzman filed a police report when somebody put a swastika on some of her campaign signs, and Clayton's campaign manager, Don Albers, said he would not be surprised if Salzman did it herself to get sympathy votes.

Albers later resigned as campaign manager.

As it was Clayton finished a distant third behind Salzman, who edged Hathorne by one vote in an election that went to court.

There were no hanging chads like Bush-Gore in 2000, but it was that kind of night and that kind of election.

There was no provision for a runoff of the top two vote-getters at the time. That was put into effect two years later in time for the 2008 elections.

In that 2008, Salzman was challenged by Hathorne, Clayton, Kathy Colley and Charles Smiroldo. Colley and Salzman were the top two vote-getters, followed by Hathorne, Clayton and Smiroldo, and Colley won the runoff.

Colley, Salzman, Clayton and Mary Joy Apper ran for the seat in 2012, and the tradition of one-term councilors held true. The incumbent Colley actually had 60 more votes after the first go-round, but Clayton, with help from the Tea Party, won the runoff.

When Clayton and much of the Tea Party split over several issues, the 2016 election was again C open. Bency was elected by wide margins over Clayton in both the general and runoff elections, 20 years after he first claimed the seat.
Salzman was a strong Bency supporter in this election and he put name into the mix as the District 6 representative. Clayton was named as an at-large representative by Mayor Gregg Hull.

Bency is still facing a court hearing on a misdemeanor charge that he filed a false police report alleging that Clayton had damaged one of his campaign signs. A preliminary hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 16 at 8:30 a.m. and the trial date has been moved to Sept. 1.

Two other candidates who were defeated in their bid for office were also approved for the Charter Commission.

In District 2, Utilities Commission Chairman Bill White, who ran for mayor in 2006, was appointed to represent District 2 by Councilor Dawnn Robinson, who was not present at Thursday’s special city council meeting to consider the appointments. 

In District 3, councilor Cheryl Everett nominated the person she beat for the office, Tamara Gutierrez, on the commission. Gutierrez was appointed to the council upon the death of Delma Petrulo.

Also appointed were Phil Pigott for District 1, Aaron Fleming in District 4 and Michelle Bunzel in District 5.

The commission was created at the last Governing Body meeting with the specific scope of making recommendations on the pay for elected officials.

No date for the first meeting of the commission has been announced

Friday, Aug. 5, 2016

Latest Star Trek shines;
Hillary's America devistates

Special to

Here's a look at two movies now playing in the area:

Star Trek Beyond (PG-13) 
**** out of five stars

Capt. James T.  Kirk (Chris Pine) and gang crash land in a distant world after being savagely attacked from its surface. A mysterious planetary dictator, Krall (Idris Elba), is an incubus and craves an artifact that was aboard the now nearly destroyed Starship Enterprise. Naturally, chaos ensues and a desperate battle for cosmic survival begins. 

For the millions of Trekkers out there, and you know who you are, Beyond is a (kind of) villain remake of episode one of the first season of the beloved television series called “The Man Trap” that first aired in 1966.
If you read the entertainment blogs, you know Director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, 2009 and Star Trek: Into Darkness, 2013) is a loyal fan of all things Star Trek. His last Trek flick was a powerful remake of the combination of  Star Trek TV episode 22 (Space Seed, ’67) and the successful franchise re-boost that creator Gene Rodenberry  and director/writer Nicholas Meyer got from their large screen rendering of The Wrath of Khan (1982).  

Purists and critics panned Star Trek: Into Darkness for being a retread, but for me: everything old can be made new again. Director Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious 4-6) has nailed it with a freshness that mirrors Rodenberry’s original vision. 

In Lin’s capable hands, Star Trek Beyond is a frenetically paced, comedy-tinged gem that never bores. Lin’s timely and crafted story, replete with his evolving characters, assures the future of the franchise. 

Beyond is a treat for all ages – baby boomers, millennials, Gen-Z types and geezers.  

Star Trek: Beyond is showing at Premiere Cinema 14 in Rio Rancho and other locations in Albuquerque. 

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (PG-13)

**** out of 5 stars

This simple, yet devastatingly true, docudrama by Dinesh D’Souz lays bare the real history of America’s Democrat Party and the deeds of current standard bearers. Hillary’s America is a dot-connecting sordid tale of hubris and greed that spans almost 200 years of American political and social history. 

D’Souza has carefully, systematically, and with devastating effect, painted a compelling portrait of a ruthless Democrat Party that was born to preserve slavery and to perpetrate racist policies.

D’Souza shows how throughout their long history, the Democrats have without conscious pivoted and changed their donkey’s livery to suit the times, i.e. progressivism, socialism, and finally liberalism.

D’Souza shows that all these iterations were purposely designed to mask the real goal of the Democrat Party: In short, a quest for supremacy and the absolute control of the American people. 
D’Souza exposes the ultimate goal of Barak Obama  and his heir-apparent as a bait-and-switch quasi-democratic state that functions like a criminal empire.

I suspect that even many educated millennials are clueless about the Democrat Party’s antecedents or of the revisionist history with which our schools faithfully indoctrinate their charges.  D’Souza argues that Democrat Party insiders fully comprehend the consequences of their real goals and are working steadily to achieve them.   

D’Souza paints an illuminating picture of the Democrat Party, past and present, that any rational voter would be wise to fully evaluate before they cast a vote this November. I wholly recommend this important and informative film in limited run engagement.

Hillary’s America can be seen in Albuquerque at the Century Rio 24 Theater and at the UA High Ridge Theatre.

Eric Lucero is a long-time Albuquerque resident, movie fan and retired U.S. Army veteran. He has self-published via his own email list and as a guest reviewer for NM Politics with Joe Monahan since 2013. Contact Lucero at

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016

City, school distict
call special meetings


Thursday is a "special" day in Rio Rancho.

Both the Rio Rancho Governing Body and Rio Rancho Shool board have called special meetiongs for this afternoon to handle some quick business that could not wait until the next regular meetings.

The Goverining Body will meet at 3 p.m. at City Hall to discuss, and apparently confirm, nominees to the new Charter Review Commission created last week to look at the salaries of elected officials.

At 5:30 p.m., the school board will meet at district headquarters to review and likely approve two change orders on two air conditioning projects at unspecified district favilities.

After that you can attend the grend opening of the 201 Sandoval County Democratic Party office, located at 2345 Southern Blvd, Suite B-4. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan is scheduled to appear.

County Republican officials continue to work with the state party in an attempt to get a local office.

You can cap off your night at the regular meeting of the Sandovall County Commission, which begins at 6 p.m. at Commission Chambers.

Tomorrow the Democrats will host their monthly First Friday Luncheon from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at The Range Cafe in Bernalillo. Attorney General Hedctor Baldaras is the secheduled main speaker.


Meanwhile, hearing dates for two legal actions involving the city of Rio Rancho have been set.

The labor complaint filed on behalf  of former Rio Rancho police union president Justin Garcia will is scheduled for Sept. 21-22 at the New Mexkco Public Employee Labor Relations Board office, 2929 Coors Blvd. N.W., Suite 303 in Albuquerque.

The city’s case against Councilor David Bency will go to court on Sept. 1.



Burn restrictions were lifted in most areas of Sandovval County on Thursday, but Chief James Maxon still cautioned the public to be careful.

Recent rain in the area has prompted Maxon to lift the ban on outdoor fires, but you still need a permit from

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the heading BRIEFS.


Thursday, July 28, 2016
$50 BILLION (yes, with a B)

Sandoval County creates fund
for future economic development


Companies now have 50 billion reasons to do business in Sandoval County. They're called dollar bills.

The county commission that once set a record by issuing an $8 billion industrial revenue bond for Intel, then doubled down with a $16 billion IRB four years later, has now voted to create a $50 billion fund to entice new businesses to the area and encourage those that already exist to expand.

Commissioner Glenn Walters, who has only a few months left in his second term, knows it’s not likely he’ll be in office when the first request to tap in to the money roll in. But he hopes the large figure draws attention world-wide with a simple message: “Sandoval County is open for business.”

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the heading $50 BILLION.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Donisthorpe funeral draws big crowd


Anybody who can get Congressman Steve Pearce and State Sen. John Sapien to come to their funeral must have led amazing life.

Such was the case for Bruce Donisthorpe, known primarily as a Republican activist but a man who obviously had friends and influence on both sides of the political aisle.

Donisthorpe, 56, died July 24 of an apparent heart attack.

It was only fitting that his memorial services was conducted Thursday at the Legacy Church east campus in Albuquerque, because it is quite a legacy he leaves behind.

It’s hard to say you can have fun at a funeral, but Donisthorpe’s service was part a testimonial to his re-dedication to God and part an Evening at The Improv. Having known Bruce for more than 30 years, he would have loved it.

Please click here to see more  of this story under the headline DONISTHORPE.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pay hike clears council,
but issue isn't done yet

New charter review group
put in place to study issue


The thorny issue of raising the salaries of elected officials isn’t quite done yet.


Even though the Governing Body approved a second reading of an ordinance on the matter Wednesday night as expected, it appears voters will have one more crack at the issue in the next city election in 2018.

Voters defeated a proposed charter amendment to raise the pay of the mayor, city councilors and municipal judge on March 1. That left the dirty work up to the Governing Body, who gave their final approval – for now.

The vote was 4-2, with councilor Dawnn Robinson repeating her “no” vote of July 13. Mayor Gregg Hull, forced to vote with the absence of District 6 councilor David Bency, also voted against the measure as Bency did at the last meeting.

But the council also unanimously approved the formation of a new charter review committee with the specific task of addressing this one issue.

Under the resolution, introduced by District 1 councilor Jim Owen, the newest charter review committee must make its recommendation by Oct. 31 and the Governing Body has 30 days to concur or send it back to the committee for more review. Either way, the new charter committee expires March 31, 2017, almost a year before the 2018 municipal election.

If tradition holds and the city conducts its municipal election on the first Tuesday in March as it has done in the past, the election would be March 6, 2018. The Governing Body will approve election sites and dates in late 2017.

Given the so-called “weak mayor” form of government that has always existed in Rio Rancho – with a “strong” city manager/administrator in charge of day-to-day operations -- just what to pay elected officials has been the subjection of controversy since the day the city was created. There are legendary stories of how a group of councilors wanted to duck the controversy years ago took turns skipping meetings so no could be taken.

The job of mayor was defined as a part-time position in the charter until the voters changed it to full-time in 2012. Just what “full-time” actually means has never been clearly defined by the voters, council or any charter review committee. Voters did place a restriction on the mayor having outside employment unless he or she has council approval, but no pay raise has come with these changes in working conditions.

An additional problem is the city appeared to be in violation of the state constitution by granting automatic three percent rises to councilors and the mayor every year. The 12 percent total cumulative increase over a four-year term doesn’t mean much in actual dollars because the base number is low to start with, but it is the appearance of an automatic raise and perceived arrogance by some that the Governing Body is going to do what it wants no matter what the voters say that have fanned the flames of the issue this time.

Because the mayor is in a large sense the face of the city, people are less likely to separate the position from the individual. That means Gregg Hull has gotten a lot of heat from the public, especially after the March 1 vote.

Hull was put on the spot by under a charter amendment passed in March that gives the mayor the duty of voting in place of an absent councilor.

In an exclusive lengthy interview with after Wednesday’s meeting, Hull said he considered recusing himself from the vote even though he will not benefit from the pay increases outlined in the ordinance unless he wins reelection in 2018. Neither will any sitting councilor or the municipal judge, who receive small increases in the ordinance.

While he supports what he calls “correcting a problem,” Hull said he was “uncomfortable” in voting on raise.

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the heading COUNCIL.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Donisthorpe dies of
apparent heart attack
Corrales resident was GOP pollster,operative


Bruce Donisthorpe, a highly respected pollster and Republican operative who lived in Corrales, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack.

Donisthorpe was the owner and CEO of  BWD Global, a company that specialized in communications, public relations, government relations, polling, public policy and social media for more  than 15 years. He founded the company in January 2001, according to his Linked-In page.

In addition to his own business, he also worked as the senior vice president for public and government relations for Manzano Strategies LLC for six years from 2007 to 2013.

He also served as legislative director for former Congressman Joe Skeen from 1989-2001 and was the communications director for former Garrey Carruthers for a year. He served at various times as a Congressional staffer or a lobbyist.

Donisthorpe, 56, was an active member in the Kiwanis Club of Corrales, having served vice-president, and was a member of the board of advisors for the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque at the time of his death. He was active in the organization for more than 14 years.

A past president of the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, he served that organization in a volunteer capacity for more than nine years. He was also active in different Toastmaster clubs in Albuquerque.

Reaction to Donisthorpe’s death was wide-spread.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of Bruce's passing," said Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Debbie Maestas. "He has worked extensively with RPNM, as well as several candidates statewide, for many years, and he and his valuable insight on the political environment in New Mexico will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones in this difficult time."

Charlie Christmann, chairman of the Sandoval County Republican Party, said, “The sudden passing of Bruce Donisthorpe leaves a hole in the heart of the New Mexico Republican Party. Respected by both sides of the aisle, Bruce’s knowledge and insight helped shape this state’s political landscape. 

"We will all miss his good heart and positive attitude. Our condolences go out to his family and wide circle of friends. Rest in peace, Bruce.”

State Sen. Craig Brandt met Donisthorpe about six years ago while working as an analyst in the Legislature. 

“He was just a great guy who had a great political mind,” Brandt said. “I was just an analyst and he spent hours talking to me about political campaigns and how things worked.

“But more than anything he was a nice guy. He will be missed.”

An associate of Donisthorpe’s said funeral arrangements are pending and are being handled by Daniels Family Funeral Services of Rio Rancho. Services are set at the east campus of Legac Church, 4701 Wyoming N.E. in Albuquerque, at 3 p.m. Thursday

Satirdy, July 25, 1016

City and county discuss refuse issues


The governing bodies of both Sandoval County and the city of Rio Rancho spent time last week trash talking. More accurately, they were talking trash.

This is not to say they were demeaning to each other or anybody else, for that matter. This wasn’t Michael Jordan trying to get in an opponent’s head kind of trash talk that is popular in sports culture today.

Purely by coincidence, both groups had preliminary discussions about the process of garbage collection from its residents.

The county discussion came in the form of a presentation from Public Works director Tommy Mora. His plan calls for mandatory trash collection outside in the outlying areas beyond the populous areas of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales and Placitas.

Rio Rancho’s discussion was must simpler. Its contract with Waste Management Inc. expires Dec. 31, 2017, and the city is trying to get ready for negotiations of a new agreement, most likely 10-year deal like what is in place currently.

The county and the city both face the same big obstacle: Collecting money from residents who can’t or won’t pay, or move before an account is declared to be officially late or in arrears. In the county’s case, it’s a matter of finding a company willing to bring trash to the county landfill, which could be expanded within a few years once some licensing and regulatory issues with the state are concluded. 

With that comes the key question: Who would be responsible for collecting from customers, the county or the contractor? Would the county have to add staff in accounting, finance, the treasurer’s office, code enforcement and other areas if it took on the job?

To give you an idea just how much of a problem the county could face, all you have to do is take a look at Rio Rancho. The city does have mandatory trash pick-up, Waste Management does the billing and takes what it collects to its own landfill. But last year alone about one in six city customers did not pay their bill, leaving Waste Management short about $784,000 in projected revenue, some of which the city would get back in the form of a franchise fee.

Waste Management generally rated higher in self-generated and city surveys taken of the public recently. With its corporate headquarters inside the Rio Rancho city limits, it also pays gross receipts taxes on business it does outside the city to the tune of nearly $1 million last year.

By contrast, the county would have to contract with an outside company and likely lose out on that GRT. 

With the rest of the county being largely rural and having no tradition of scheduled mandatory trash pickup, the buy-in from customers is uncertain. Many just burn their trash or, even worse, dump it illegally, leaving the county to clean up the mess anyway.

Illegal dumping, especially west of the city, is a problem for Rio Rancho too. Councilor David Bency has proposed using drones to help the understaffed police department monitor more areas, both for crime prevention and detection of activities such as illegal dumping.

As with most things surrounding Rio Rancho or Sandoval County governance, the big question is always money. How much would a drone program cost, and where do you find the start-up money to pay for it? Once it is in place, how much will it cost to staff and maintain? Would long-term savings of illegal dump cleanup costs, plus the positive impact on the environment, make it worthwhile?

Take the last paragraph, change the words “drone program” to “mandatory trash pickup,” and you can ask the exact same questions of the county proposal.

One more thing: At some point those citizens who do pay that trash bill are, in essence, subsidizing those who don’t. City officials are working with Waste Management on ideas to increase the collection rate, but the bottom line is that garbage will be picked up because it is a public health hazard. The county, obviously, would face the same dilemma if it went to a mandatory collection program.

As the old saying goes, in this case figuring out solutions to this issues is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Tuesday’s city council work session also had two other agenda items. The city is considering its next steps on impact fee credits, and the process starts tonight with at a meeting with the Capital Improvement Committee Citizens Advisory Council (CIPCAC), which will take up the matter at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall. It will also likely have a special meeting next month.

City manager Keith Riesberg also reviewed the five-hour work session the Governing Body had in June by offering a list of topics that came up and offering a brief status report and/or acknowledgement that the city had indeed captured the councilor’s suggestions and ideas. A draft of notes taken by the meeting facilitator is under review.

The county also had other business to conduct. Manager Phil Rios earned kudos for reading into the record a consent agenda of almost two pages, so long because many programs were being renewed with the start of a new fiscal year. One item that did stand out in the 19-item list was the appointment of former city councilor Lonnie Clayton to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Board. He replaces Wes Basset, who died earlier this month, as the District 4 representative.

A move by commissioner Nora Scherzinger to go on the record with the county’s support for the Federal Endangered Species Act died for the lack of a second from another commissioner.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Movie reviews added to

Editor’s Note: In a continuing effort to expand into a full service online community newspaper, today we introduce a new feature. We are thrilled to add Eric Lucero’s movie reviews to our site.

Lucero is a long-time Albuquerque resident, movie fan and retired U.S. Army veteran. He has self-published via his own email list and as a guest reviewer for NM Politics with Joe Monahan since 2013. Contact Lucero at

Special to

Here's a look at four movies now playing in the area:

The Infiltrator (R)
Rating: **1/2 on a five-star scale  

The Infiltrator
is a historic-crime biopic that seems to be out of place with its summer release.

Brave is the studio that tries to buck the dictum that summer belongs to light comic fare. Films with shades of post-domestic and foreign terror themes (Jason Bourne 2016) need not apply. 

The Infiltrator is not immune from this trend. It should have been presented later in the year where more serious films used to reign.

That said, The Infiltrator is still worth a peek, if for no other reason than to see actor, Bryan Cranston, aka Walter White of Breaking Bad fame, playing real life good guy, deep undercover U.S. customs agent Robert Mazur. 

In 1986 Mazur helped bust Colombian dope fiend Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering Medellin cartel and take down of Bank of Credit and Commerce International, or BCCI.

Director Brad Furman has done better (The Lincoln Lawyer, 2011, for instance), and the screenplay by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman (a lawyer turned writer) should have been better structured. After all, she did have plenty of factual material available from Mazur’s memoir.

Neither Furman was able to provide a flowing juxtaposition between Cranston/Mazur’s normal family life and his maniac alter-ego as the flamboyant Bob Musella.

Cranston is a little too old for this role. He got me in the door, but the story didn’t quite hook me.  

This film is now showing at Premiere Cinema 14, 1000 Premier Parkway S.E., Rio Rancho. It is also showing at three locations in Albuquerque: Cinemark 14 Downtown, Regal Winrock Stadium 16 IMAX & RPX and the Century 24 Rio.


Our Kind of Traitor (R)
Rating: ***1/

Our Kind Of Traitor is a breezy globe-trotting espionage thriller brought competently to the screen by British director Susanna White (Parade’s End, 2012) and is faithfully adapted from John le Carre’s taunt novel of the same name. The author is credited as an executive producer as well. 

His previous novel, A Most Wanted Man (2015) made a better film. But lead Brit Ewan McGregor’s performance as the innocent, naïve and marital-troubled husband Makepeace can’t quite compete with Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard’s (from the Thor and Avengers’ series) Russian money launderer Dima, or British actor Damian Lewis’ (Homeland) role as the MI6 Agent Meredith. 

Le Carre is an acquired taste. The directors, White and Hossein Amni, attempt to channel le Carre and manage to come close here, but his plodding plotted stories may be too complex for today’s audiences.

Movie story telling has become too simplistic and is driven by special effects. Even so, Traitor is a worthwhile island for genre fans amid a sea of formulated summer popcorn fare. 

This film is now showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque, (844) 462-7342.


The Legend of Tarzan (PG-13)
Rating: ***

The Legend of Tarzan is possibly this summer’s biggest domestic flop. Yet it is also by far the best cinematic portrayal of the jungle hero.

Why a flop? Because too many big budget pictures are chasing shrinking audience dollars amid changing tastes. Also, this year’s domestic and foreign unrest has weary audiences seeking politically correct passive digital animated fare, which Legend is not.  

Director David Yates (the final four Harry Potter films from 2007-11) and his script writers were obviously inspired by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad’s monumental Heart of Darkness (1899) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s searing pamphlet The Curse of the Congo (1909). Both works assisted Yates et al in picking a time and place for this Tarzan romantic adventure reboot.  

The film’s story line is quite plausible and given today’s popularity of alternative history offers audiences something different to ponder. This Tarzan story offers a “what if” scenario which when blended with actual people and events add up to an entertaining story. Just think of The Jungle Book **** (2016, Disney), with Kipling’s boy cub Mowgli having grown up and turning into Tarzan.

As for Legend’s stars, Swede Skargard looks and acts the part (even without the loin cloth), just as his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes, 1912) envisioned. German actor Christopher Waltz plays a composite corrupt Belgian captain named Leon Rom with aplomb. Rom’s villainous persona is right out of Waltz’s suave sociopathic rendering of a Nazi via Inglorious Bastards (2009).  

Rounding up the notable cast, acters Samuel L. Jackson
carries the honor of portraying the historic American Civil War soldier, ordained minister, lawyer and noted historian
George Washington Williams (1849-1891) who assists Tarzan in his battles with Captain Rom et al.  

In spite of its bloated expense, back loaded action, rookie production mistakes, etc., Legend commands your attention. But I recommend you see it in 2D.

This film is now showing at Premiere Cinema 14 Rio Rancho, 1000 Premier Parkway S.E., Rio Rancho, (505) 994-3300. It is also showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque, (844) 462-7342.


Dark Horse (PG)
Rating: ***1/

Dark Horse is an historic docudrama that is a memorably stirring and sentimental tale portraying the trials and tribulations of a humble race horse named Dream Alliance and his unlikely British working class owners. Dark Horse is wholly entertaining and gives National Velvet (1944) a serious run. 

Director/writer Louise Osmond (Deep Water, 2006) weaves a breezy and compiling true story of a struggling Welsh barmaid who cajoles some local patrons to invest their meager earnings in a creative racing syndicate and compete in the Sport of Kings. Against all odds they breed and raise a champion racehorse. 

The core of Dark Horse is Dream Alliance’s inexplicable journey to greatness and his owners’ eventual class warfare triumph. This movie is beautifully fused together with the ample cinematography of Benjamin Kracum (Hyena, 2014) and stirring music by Anne Nikitin (The Imposter, 2012). 

A convincing ensemble cast made this low budget gem the winner of “Best British Documentary o 2015. Dark Horse is a real treat.

Now showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque,  (844) 462-7342.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Political hot potato

Council votes 4-2 to raise mayor's salary


Ignoring the results of the March election, the Rio Rancho City Council voted Wednesday night to give the mayor a significant pay raise and minor increases to counselors and the municipal judge.

Counselor Jim Owen, himself a former mayor, joined three sponsors with affirmative votes. Counselors David Bency and Dawnn Robinson voted against the measure.

Mayor Gregg Hull took the unprecedented step of challenging a member of the public who spoke against the ordinance. Protocol is that public speakers, except for things like an applicant in a zoning case, are given three minutes to speak and are not interrupted, questioned or addressed by members of the Governing Body, even though sometimes they want feedback. 

Members of the Governing Body have two chances to respond that are on the agenda: immediately after public comment at the beginning of the meeting and as the last item of the meeting where they can cover other things that might come up.

According to the Governing Body’s own Rules of Procedure, revised July 9, 2014, one of the duties of the presiding officer is to “preserve order and decorum.” Under Section3.3 Decorum, item B states, “Members of the Governing Body shall confine their remarks to the question under discussion or debate, avoiding personal references or attacks on fellow members, staff members or members of the public.”

This long-time political hot potato brought came to a head after voters turned down a proposed City Charter amendment on March 1. A summary on the city web site published before the election described it this way: “If approved, beginning in 2018, the salaries for the Governing Body would be tied to the City’s mean household income as reported by the United States Census Bureau. The current annual salary for the Mayor is $30,402. The current annual salary for City Councilors is as follows: District 1, 4, 6: $14,328 / District 2, 3, 5: $15,201. The 2013 estimate of mean household income for Rio Rancho reported by the United States Census Bureau was $73,998. Thirty-five (35) percent of this amount is $25,899.30.”

The proposal before the council sets salaries on the median income of residents, not the mean. 

The mean, sometimes called the arithmetic mean, is the sum of all the numbers in a set divided by the amount of numbers in the set. The average of a set of numbers is the same as its mean; they're synonyms.

The median is something completely different. It is the middle point of a number set, in which half the numbers are above the median and half are below.

The difference? In the case of the mayoral salary, the Rio Rancho mean/average salary is $73,998; the median salary in the proposed ordinance is $59,243, or $14,755 less than the ballot proposal.

That’s still a 94.9 percent increase over the current salary of $30,402. Proponents of the increase, including Hull, say voters have placed additional restrictions on the mayor’s salary over the years, attempting to define a “full-time mayor” and requiring a mayor to receive City Council approval if he or she wants an outside job, but have not raised the pay despite additional job requirements and limits.

In fact, that was the point Hull was trying to make when he confronted the speaker – duties have been increased, but pay hasn’t. But the issue among public speakers both at the time of the ordinance debate and in public comment was that voters denied a raise at the ballot box and that is unfair for public officials to raise the salary for their position -- even though they won’t benefit in their current terms – while many residents on fixed incomes are struggling to get by.

Hull and sitting counselors will not benefit from a pay increase unless they are reelected. The mayor and increase will happen after the 2018 election; council pay raises will go into effect depending on what year they are up for election. Districts two, three, and five are up for election in 2018; district one, four and six in 2020.

There were 14 charter amendments on the ballot; Proposition 38 was the only one that failed. The margin was 53 percent to 47 percent; in raw numbers the total was 2954-2615, a difference of 339 votes.

Bency and Robinson expressed concern that voters turned down a proposed pay raise less than five months ago. 

Former city councilor and local businessman Mark Scott has been vocal it his opposition to the raises.

Speaking exclusively to the score got info, Scott said "anybody sitting in office who votes for a pay raise after the voters said no should have recuse themselves or pledged not to run for reelection. The incumbent obviously has an advantage and seeking reelection, so in essence they have a chance to get a pay raise that they voted on anyway, just not immediately."

The proposal still has a second reading and vote at the next Governing Body meeting on July 27. If it does pass (and become law 10 days later), the ordinance: 

*Establishes the mayor's annual salary as Rio Rancho's median household income, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, starting in 2018.

*Establishes a city council member's annual salary as 28 percent of Rio Rancho's median household income, starting in 2018.

*Establishes the municipal judge annual salary at $70,000 starting in 2018. Prior to the 2022 election of a Municipal Judge, and thereafter, the governing body would be required to review the Judge's annual salary and approve any adjustment at least 11 months prior to Election Day for the judge position. 

The increase is a token raise; under current ordinance (dating back to 1997), the Municipal Judge has reached a current annual salary of $69,347.

Proponents argue the fix is necessary because the current ordinance provides for automatic three percent raises for each councilor and mayor who start a four-year term in violation of the state constitution. Under the current ordinance (dating back to 2004), the mayor's annual salary is already scheduled to increase from $30,402 and is scheduled to $34,217.71 for the individual elected in 2018.  

The increase stems from current ordinance language requiring a mayor starting a new four-year term to receive a salary increase equivalent to four years of three percent salary increases in comparison to their predecessor's salary.

The same formula is in place for the city council. Automatic raises are scheduled for individuals who are elected in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

District one, four and six councilors who were just elected in March now have a salary of $16,127 that is scheduled to go up to $18,151.07 for those elected in 2020. The figures for districts two, three and five who were elected in 2014: $15,201 currently, 
$17,108.86 starting in 2018.

If the ordinance passes, it means Rio Rancho will be paying nearly $210,000 in salary alone. City manager Keith Riesberg was hired in 2013 at a base salary of $150,000 per year; it is not clear if he has received a pay raise since.

Proponents of the ordinance say the mayor position deserves a raise since voters adopted charter amendments in 2012 and 2016 increasing the mayor’s duties and limiting his access to outside work without increasing compensation. Some argue that the relatively low salary, as compared to similar sized cities in the state like Santa Fe and Las Cruces, prevents some interested candidates from seeking the job.

Others say the automatic three percent raises at the start of the next four-year term for mayor and city council violated the state constitution.

Article 4, Section 27 of the New Mexico Constitution, which states that "No law shall be enacted giving any extra compensation to any public officer, servant, agent, or contractor after services are rendered or contract made; nor shall the compensation of any officer be increased or diminished during his term of office."

Opponents argue the automatic raises took politics out of the equation and since the raises came in the next term the current ordinance does not violate the state constitution.

Rio Rancho is the third largest City in the state by population (94,171) according to the most current U.S. Census Bureau information. According to 2015 Charter Review Committee research, Las Cruces, the second largest City by population (101,643), has an annual Mayor salary of $73,892. Santa Fe, the fourth largest City by population (84,099), has an annual mayoral salary of $29,452 that will increase to $74,000 in 2018).

Research from the same Charter Review Committee has the annual salary of a Las Cruces city councilor at $29,556; in Santa Fe the figure is $29,452.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hello, Aloha!
RV outlet opens new Bernalillo location

The word “aloha” has lots of different meanings in Hawaiian culture. This weekend in Bernalillo, it means hello and welcome.

Aloha RV, which has operated in Albuquerque for more than 25 years, opened a second location in the Sandoval County seat on May 4. It continues a month-long grand opening celebration that continues to July 23.

Today’s activities include of free food and music from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres is expected to formally greet the new business at noon.

The new facility is located at 350 East Frontage Road, about a half-mile north on the east frontage road, from U.S> 550/N.M. 165.

The outlet has already demonstrated its popularity, already attracting more likes on its Facebook page than the Albuquerque store. It has seven full-time employees: two technicians to do repairs, three salesmen, a parts/service manager and a general manager.

Aloha RV North currently has about 140 trailers, motor homes and fifth wheel trailers on its five-acre lot and hopes to up its inventory to 200 later this year.

For more information, go to the Aloha RV North web site or call (505) 797-8444 and ask press Option 6.

For more photos, click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Labor hearing date set

Report: Police issues the reason
Riesberg was fired from previous job


A state labor board hearing on a complaint filed by Rio Rancho police officer Justin Garcia has been scheduled for Sept. 20-21.

The New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers has filed a complaint on behalf of Corporal Justin Garcia, the immediate past president of the local union, alleging he was unfairly disciplined by the department for union activities.

State union president Steve Harvey said documents and witness lists, among other items, will be exchanged in advance of the hearing. Harvey, who attended Wednesday’s scheduling conference, said the city was represented by a firm it had subcontracted.

The city attorney position is vacant with the departure of Jennifer Vega-Brown last month.

Meanwhile, the Rio Rancho Tea Party reported on its website last weekend that city manager Keith Riesberg met with all police officers to report of one of two meetings after rumors of a vote of no confidence in Chief Michael Geyer surfaced.

According to the website, “Mayor Gregg Hull asked the RRTP President Steve VanHorn to  ‘correct’ information in a RRTP website article about the City Manager attending a recent meeting of the police union.  The article stated the City Manager attended the meetings to discuss possible repercussions if a vote of no confidence in the police chief occurred.  

‘The Mayor alleged this could not have occurred since City Manager Keith Riesberg was out of town at the time.”

The Tea Party did not publish “the date of the meetings or who called the meetings (and we wonder how the Mayor even knew which meeting(s) we referred to), his comment spurred us to dig deeper.  We submitted an IPRA request for the following information related to the date in question:

*“City Manager’s, Police Chief’s, Deputy Police Chief’s and Mayor’s emails/documents concerning mandatory police meetings or briefings on 4/14/16.

*“Agenda for the police meetings/briefings.

*“Was any overtime paid to attend meetings?

*“Copy of City Manager’s and Mayor’s schedules for 04/10/16 to 04/17/16.”

The Tea Party wrote that “Mr. Riesberg’s attendance of police meetings on this date was confirmed by multiple sources. His own schedule provided to us by the City showed he planned to attend these two police meetings/briefings on 4/14/16.  Sources also confirmed that Riesberg spoke at the meetings.”

The Tea Party also reported a Google search
search (Keith Riesberg + Police Union) “revealed a startling similarity of past history during Keith Riesberg’s final days as City Manager in O’Fallon, MO. Police union issues and a vote of no confidence in their police chief seem to be at the heart of Riesberg being fired from his position there.

“To add insult to injury, after the O’Fallon City Council investigated the situation, they decided to keep the police chief and get rid of Riesberg instead.”

The Tea Party story also stated that its IPRA request regarding e-mails is being reviewed. The city is reviewing the emails requested and has 15 days to respond.

Two members of the Rio Rancho Governing Body at the time Riesberg was hired told that they were not made aware of Riesberg’s departure from Missouri by the search firm employed by the city to assist in the candidate search for city manager.

Here are two links regarding Riesberg in Missouri:

Thursday, July 14, 2016
Board declines action on charter
for Native American students


The Rio Rancho school board declined to take any action on a possible charter school for Native American students on Monday night, meaning the final disposition of the issue won’t come until next month.

Board members and Superintendent Sue Cleveland seemed supportive of the idea, but expressed concerns that the financially-strapped district might be responsible for transportation and cafeteria services, among other items.

Outside of the meeting later, Ray Begay, a former state legislator and primary architect of the plan for the charter school, said he would not be seeking any money from the district.

Charter schools can be supported either by the state or local school districts. Begay is hoping to become a charter in the Rio Rancho district, noting that state-sponsored chargers often find themselves in competition with the local district.

By failing to take a vote, the board in essence tabled the matter for another month.

Begay’s plans call for grades 9-12 for the first two years of the school, expanding to 7-12 in the future.  Budget figures he shared with call for 125 students in the first year with a budget of $876,572, expanding to $1.9 million for 600 students in five years.

Begay said he has been in negotiations with a local restaurant to provide food service for the school initially and that he estimated 70 percent of the students would be transported from area pueblos by family.

He also said he is in negotiations for a building in the northern part of the city, giving closer access to neighboring pueblos.

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