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Corruption Trial Reset for Next Year

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There’s been another delay in bringing former state Rep. Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos to trial on corruption charges.

The delay was caused when Gov. Susana Martinez appointed lawyer Paul Kennedy, who represented Gallegos, to the Supreme Court.

Gallegos and Dennis Kennedy — no relation to Justice Kennedy — were set to go on trial this month in state District Court in Albuquerque on fraud, money laundering and other charges related to their work at the state Region III Housing Authority.

Gallegos headed the authority, and Dennis Kennedy was its accountant. They also face fraud and other charges in a second case related to their work at Region III.

As it stands now, Gallegos and Dennis Kennedy are scheduled for one trial in January and another in March.

They were indicted in 2009 after an audit found Region III money was misspent on retirement benefits, salaries, a $300,000 loan to Gallegos, liquor and travel.

Region III also sold homes to authority insiders and let a state judge in Albuquerque and a top aide to state House Speaker Ben Lujan live rent-free in Region III homes.

Two former authority lawyers — Robert Strumor and David N. Hernandez, a former State Bar president — also are charged in the case. They have pleaded not guilty and haven’t yet stood trial.

The governor appointed Paul Kennedy in September to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and the Republican is seeking an eight-year term to the office in the Nov. 6 election. His Democratic opponent is state District Judge Barbara Vigil in Santa Fe.

I guess if Paul Kennedy loses the election, he would be available for the trials of Gallegos next year.

The office of state Attorney General Gary King is prosecuting the Region III cases, and the outcomes could impact his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014. Prominent Albuquerque lawyer Sam Bregman, a possible challenger to King in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, is representing Dennis Kennedy.

Long service

Too often, the bad apples in government get the attention. So, today, let’s recognize one of the good ones.

On Oct. 1, Florene Davidson, administrative bureau chief for the Oil Conservation Division in Santa Fe, reached 50 years of service with the state.

I’ll do the math for you; she started working for the state in 1962. John F. Kennedy was president then. Davidson’s first job was with the Oil Conservation Commission in Hobbs.

Gov. Susana Martinez issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 1 as Florene Davidson Day.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary John Bemis, whose department is the parent agency of the Oil Conservation Division, describes Davidson as soft-spoken, hard-working, kind and loyal.

She says her co-workers have made the half-century a breeze. “They have all made my job fun and easy,” she says.

Davidson isn’t the longest-serving worker in state government. That title belongs to Anita Aldeis, a financial specialist with the Department of Transportation.

Aldeis has been on the job nearly 52 years. She started with the state when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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