Feb. 28 First News: Audit Report Critical of N.M. Human Services Department (Listen)

Feb 28, 2014

A state audit says the Human Services Department mismanaged federal Medicaid money and improperly handled fraud allegations against more than a dozen mental health providers, some of which have gone out of business after HSD suspended their Medicaid payments. The Department calls the audit “political grandstanding.” State Auditor Hector Balderas on Thursday released the audit of HSD, saying the department should hold itself to the same accountability standards that it required of the mental health providers and others receiving federal payments through Medicaid. The audit said the agency improperly paid 620-thousand dollars to Arizona companies brought in last year to take over management of the mental health providers because of allegations of fraud, mismanagement and billing problems.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, in southern New Mexico, confirmed Thursday that 13 employees tested positive of radiological contamination after a radiation leak. Joe Franco is the manager of the Department of Energy's Carlsbad Office: *****022814-Franco-1  :14***** Franco's comments came at a news conference, where WIPP officials announced those tested had been above-ground at the facility, and that other workers will be tested. Probes will be sent into the mine for radiation and air-quality readings. Officials will then attempt to fix the leak and bring the facility back to full operation, which could take months.

A former labor union official from Albuquerque has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of embezzlement. A news release from the New Mexico U.S. Attorney's Office says 43-year-old Leonard Bridge-the-second entered his plea during an arraignment in federal court Thursday. Bridge faces 20 counts of embezzlement of assets from a labor organization. He was employed as the business manager of the Local 131 of the International Union of Elevator Constructors between 2009 and 2011.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department says a new study completed by Ernst& Young ranks New Mexico as the best state in the West for manufacturing. In a previous study, New Mexico had some of the regions' highest business tax rates. This 2014 update incorporates state and local tax rates effective in December 2013. Counting credits, effective tax rates for manufacturing businesses in New Mexico dropped substantially between 2011 and 2013 resulting in an effective tax rate of three-point-three-percent The regional average not including New Mexico is greater than six-percent.

New Mexico has a flu vaccination rate for children significantly above the national average. Federal figures show that 67 percent of New Mexico children 17 and younger were vaccinated for flu during the current flu season, compared with 57 percent nationally. The Albuquerque Journal reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a New Mexico program that immunized 51-thousand school children.

Santa Fe Weather: Partly sunny today with a high near 56. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low around 39 with a 20-percent chance of precipitation. Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy and windy with a 50-percent chance of precipitation, the high tomorrow, 56.