Wednesday, December 08, 2004

NM Public Regulation Commissioner Shirley Baca Busted For Pot Possession At ABQ Airport 

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) -A member of the powerful state Public Regulation Commission who
advocated zero tolerance on drugs and alcohol in the PRC workplace has been arrested
on drug charges. E. Shirley Baca, 53, of Las Cruces, was taken into custody shortly
after 7 a.m. Wednesday at Albuquerque's international airport. She was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

John Roberts, deputy chief of Albuquerque Aviation Police, told The
Associated Press that the controlled substance was marijuana. Baca's bond was set at $1,000, and she bonded out by early afternoon, jail officials said. Fellow Commissioner David King said he was stunned when told by the AP that Baca had been arrested. "I know that she was one of the advocates to have zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol" at the PRC, King said. She advocated immediate dismissal
of any PRC employee when it comes to drugs or alcohol, he said.

"We have a lot of sensitive positions here. We just can't tolerate that (drugs and alcohol). I think that, as commissioners, we have to set a strong example," King said.

Baca was scheduled to take a Wednesday flight to New York City to participate in an investment conference, King said. A message left seeking comment at Baca's Santa Fe office was notimmediately returned. Baca's secretary, Jesse Ramirez, was surprised to learn of Baca's arrest but said she could not comment further. Baca, a Democrat, was elected in 2002 for a four-year term to the five-member PRC, which oversees electricity and gas rates, insurance, pipelines, telecommunications, fire districts and transportation in New

Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy said the news came as a big surprise. "I'm going to refrain from passing any judgment because I really don'tknow all the details," Lovejoy said. Patrick Baca, commission chief of staff, declined comment.

Baca's arrest is the latest in a series of embarrassing busts for high-profile officials in New Mexico. John Brennan, former chief state district judge in Bernalillo County, was arrested in May after trying to duck a checkpoint for drunken drivers. He pleaded guilty to aggravated driving while intoxicated and cocaine possession and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.Rep. Joe Thompson, R-Albuquerque, in April pleaded guilty to drunken driving after he was stopped by Albuquerque police. Arthur Salazar, associate superintendent of schools in Espanola,pleaded guilty in October 2003 to a DWI charge after his car struck a house,
garage and fence. He was sentenced to three days in jail.

E. Shirley Baca was a state representative from 1993 to 1996. She also made unsuccessful bids against the late Joe Skeen for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 1996 and 1998.
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