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Out West Roundup: Harassment allegations pit lobbyist against New Mexico lawmaker

Author: Associated Press - May 11, 2018 - Updated: May 31, 2018

In this Tuesday, April 24, 2018, photo, Bill Braun, left, and his mother, Jo Braun, talk with current property owner Danny O’Neal about the half-car placed along the road on O’Neal’s property in Edgerton, Kansas, by Jo’s husband Ray Braun about 20 years ago. The half car has been a landmark in the Johnson County town and may have to be removed. The city council calls the car “an eyesore.” (Tammy Ljungblad/The Kansas City Star via AP)

New Mexico

Lobbyist alleges sexual harassment by state lawmaker

SANTA FE — An animal rights advocate and former political lobbyist went public with sexual harassment allegations last week against a New Mexico state lawmaker, who cast himself as the victim of politically motivated lies.

In an open letter published online, Laura Bonar accused Democratic Rep. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe of inappropriate sexual advances as they worked on legislation in 2013 and 2014 when she was a lobbyist.

Bonar says she was shut out of the legislative process as a lobbyist for Albuquerque-based Animal Protection Voters after rejecting Trujillo’s advances.

Trujillo issued a written statement to say that allegations against him are “lies of the worst sort,” without mentioning Bonar by name.

Trujillo, who did not respond to an interview request, cast blame for the allegations on unnamed political opponents, saying they had hijacked the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct for their own gain while undermining the cause of animal welfare.

Trujillo also invoked as evidence of credibility his security clearance at the Los Alamos National Laboratories, a federal nuclear research center.

The third-term legislator faces a Democratic primary opponent in the June 5 election.

“You sponsored bills that were important to my organization, then used your sponsorship to sexually harass me on multiple occasions,” Bonar wrote in the open letter to Trujillo. “You propositioned me. You touched me inappropriately.”

No harassment complaint has been filed with the Legislature or in court, according to Bonar’s attorney Levi Monagle and the legal office for the Legislature. Monagle said Bonar preferred to appeal directly to Trujillo and the voters.

“Ultimately the people of his district are his boss, above and beyond the Legislature,” Monagle said.

Report: New Mexico mayor who urged saving water using a lot

SANTA FE — A New Mexico mayor who campaigned on reducing water consumption appears to use significantly more water than most of his neighbors.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports documents showing that Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber consumes way more water than the average single-family residential customer in the city he now leads.

And according to documents obtained under an open-records request, his water usage is only going up.

During certain months, the water usage at Webber’s gated home is more than eight times what the average single-family residential customer in Santa Fe consumes.

Webber and his wife, Frances Diemoz, live in a nearly 5,000-square-foot home valued at nearly $1.15 million.

The mayor says he’s taking steps to reduce his water usage.

The report comes as almost half of New Mexico is struggling with extreme drought conditions.


Experts: Wyoming could be prime target for election interference

CHEYENNE – Wyoming and its rural counties could be weak points and therefore prime targets for nefarious actors looking to interfere with future elections in the U.S., according to experts.

That was part of the message delivered last week to lawmakers as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ conference on election security.

The meeting connected lawmakers from Wyoming and other Western states to examine issues of election security. It follows a tumultuous 2016 election where the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that they were the targets of Russian hackers.

While Wyoming, the least populated state in the U.S., might not seem like the most appealing state for those looking to interfere in or undermine elections, Caitlin Conley, Defending Digital Democracy Project executive director, told lawmakers it could be seen as a vulnerable and meaningful target.

“When these things happen, it’s probably not just going to be one state,” Conley said. “Guess what: Even if it happens in one state, it’s going to call the process in every other state into question. … A lot of times, we’ll hear, ‘Look, we’re from some rural county no one cares about, no one is going to bother us.’ And we tell them, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ This matters for everyone.”

“An attack can happen when you least expect it, and Wyoming with a rural county with outdated voting equipment that’s still connected to the internet is probably the most susceptible place,” said Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne.


500-year-old skeletons headed for Native American tribes

BOISE — Two 500-year-old skeletons discovered in Idaho’s high desert plains will be turned over to Native American tribes.

U.S. officials say the remains of the young adult and child will be given to the interrelated Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in eastern Idaho and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes in southern Idaho and northern Nevada.

The officials issued notices starting a process allowing other tribes to make claims until June 28. The remains, currently being held in a secured federal facility in Boise, will be transferred to the selected tribes if no other tribes come forward.

“We’ve always pointed out that we’ve been here for thousands of years,” Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Chairman Ted Howard said in an interview. “For our tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, those are the remains of our people, our ancestors. That’s how we feel.”

The skeletons were discovered in dry sagebrush steppe of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in April 2017, by an Idaho Department of Fish and Game worker checking ground squirrel hunters’ licenses about 5 miles from the small city of Mountain Home. A badger digging into the squirrels’ burrows apparently exposed some bones.

The bones were in such good condition that Idaho authorities initially treated the site as a possible crime scene. Authorities said they were either dealing with a double homicide that had happened in recent decades, bones from pioneers who died in the 19th century while traveling along the nearby Oregon Trail or the remains of Native Americans from that era or earlier.

But carbon dating tests found the young adult and the child or teen lived sometime during the 1400s to 1600s.

Following the carbon dating, the U.S Bureau of Land Management took possession of the remains and began a process spelled out in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to return the remains to a tribe.


No joke: After nearly 30 years, Kansas town’s funny half-car must go, city council says

It may be true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

But in Edgerton, Kansas, on Wednesday, the city council of the town of 1,700 ruled that Danny O’Neal’s treasure is just junk and it needs to be hauled off.

At a special morning meeting, the three council members in attendance decided unanimously for the city attorney to draft a resolution to finally be rid of the front half of a rusted 1987 Chevrolet Citation that for close to 30 years sat as a joke just inside the Johnson County town’s northern border.

The car was placed alongside U.S. 56 by Ray Braun, a onetime mayor who for 60 years owned the now defunct Ray’s Service Station. Braun, who died at age 90 in 2012, long ago placed the half-car on the service station’s property with a wood sign hanging from the driver’s door as a gag:

“Divorced. She got 1/2.”

Part of the joke: He was never divorced.

To some Edgerton residents, the half-car has for years been seen as a welcoming post, a kind of unofficial eyesore monument.

O’Neal, 61, bought the service station land, and, thus, the stationary half-car three years ago. He appeared at the council meeting accompanied by Braun’s son, 64-year-old Bill Braun, to argue that the two-tone half-car, painted rusty orange and faded white, with wasps buzzing inside, deserved special consideration.

But O’Neal said he could immediately tell that whatever argument he made was being greeted with rolling eyes.

“It was a kangaroo court,” O’Neal said after the meeting. “They had their decision made.”

Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts, 49, said it’s not that he isn’t sympathetic to the cause.

“From a personal standpoint, I have sentimental attachment to the car,” Roberts said.

Years ago, Roberts was the one working in his father’s body shop when Ray Braun brought in the old Citation to get it sawed in half.

“I was the one who physically cut the car in half. It was me,” aided by his dad, Roberts said.

But Roberts said that it’s his responsibility to follow city codes.

“We’re not trying to be vindictive or anything like that,” he said. “We’re just trying to follow the law as written.”

Associated Press

Associated Press