July 22 First News: State Auditor to get documents from Human Services Dept. today. (listen)

Today, State Auditor Hector Balderas gets to see the audit documents that caused New Mexico’s Human Services Department to suspend Medicaid payments to 15 providers of mental health and substance abuse services.  Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier had refused Balderas’ request for the documents saying the improprieties discovered could not at this time be construed as fraud.  Without such a definitive finding, Human Services says it was not obligated to pass them along.  A state district judge in Santa Fe disagreed and ordered the documents to be made available to the State Auditors office today.

Getting underway today in an Albuquerque federal court is jury selection in the murder trial of an Arizona prison escapee charged with killing an Oklahoma couple as they traveled across New Mexico in August 2010. John McCluskey is facing a possible death penalty if convicted of the murders of Linda and Gary Haas, whose bodies were found in a burned-out trailer near Santa Rosa. Before escaping jail, McCluskey was serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder and other crimes.

Clean-up efforts are expected at Santa Clara Pueblo today after heavy weekend storms dropped more than two inches of rain over a short period of time.  That caused a canyon channel to fill with some nine feet of water though no properties were damaged. Santa Clara remains at high risk for flash flooding as part of the after-effects of the nearby 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Fire-hardened soils there cannot absorb moisture, thus sending it all downhill toward Pueblo lands.

Santa Fe’s annual Spanish Market, one of our city’s summertime hallmarks, takes place at the end of this week.  This year is the 62nd annual edition of the event with hundreds of artists presenting their wares on the Plaza Saturday and Sunday, July 27th and 28th. It’s the oldest and largest juried Spanish Market in the US and attracts over 70,000 visitors and collectors from around the world.

Santa Feans took in the public opening Sunday of the new Botanical Gardens at Museum Hill. Two more phases are to be constructed next year for a total of 12 acres reflecting different aspects of the Northern New Mexico landscape.  Designed by landscape architect W. Gary Smith, the gardens integrate both natural and man-made settings to display garden design, horticultural practice and architecture.

Heading into the weekend, the city's Animal Services department rescued a two-foot long alligator from a  backyard on Galisteo Street. The gator was running at large and had been cornered by a dog. The animal's snout was taped shut.  It's at the County's animal shelter and the owner, when identified, faces possible charges of animal cruelty and possessing an exotic animal without a permit.

Weather for Santa Fe – partly sunny skies today and Tuesday with highs near 85.  There’s a 30% chance for isolated afternoon and evening thundershowers both days.  Where storms do occur, rain could be heavy. More vigorous monsoonal rains are possible Thursday and this coming weekend.