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Land management relocation plan to receive further scrutiny

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A federal oversight office will look into a plan to relocate Bureau of Land Management jobs to Colorado and other western states. The Grand Junction Sentinel reports the Government Accountability Office has agreed to review the Interior Department plan following a request by Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona. Officials say the move would relocate the bureau's headquarters to Grand Junction with its director and between 27 and 40 office staff members. Federal officials say about 300 bureau jobs in Washington, D.C., will be redistributed to several Western states, including 85 in various Colorado locations.


Pentagon watchdog investigating $400M border wall contract

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department's internal watchdog is investigating a $400 million border wall contract awarded to a firm that used multiple appearances on Fox News to push for the job. The Pentagon's inspector general sent a letter Thursday to House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson telling him they would audit the contract awarded to North Dakota-based firm Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. Thompson asked for the review last week, in part over concerns the proposals did not meet operational requirements and prototypes came in late and over budget.


US water chief praises Colorado River deal, sees challenges

LAS VEGAS (AP) — States in the U.S. West that have agreed to take less water next month from the drought-stricken Colorado River got praise and a push for more action from the nation’s top water official. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told water managers from seven states that the promises they made to avoid severe cutbacks are crucial. She also said Thursday that tougher challenges are ahead. Beginning Jan. 1, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico start taking less water from the river that supports about 40 million people. Officials say cuts won't be noticeable. California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming also have a stake in river water.


Phoenix fire chief to have mastectomy for breast cancer

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction Friday. Kalkbrenner made the disclosure in an open letter she posted on the Fire Department's Facebook account Thursday night. She said the diagnosis came after she discovered a lump in a breast several weeks ago and that she has a positive outlook and feels confident she will beat the cancer. She also said the diagnosis strengthens her resolve “to eradicate the disease from being considered an eventual expectation of having this career.” She said she expects to continue leading the department following her initial recovery period from the surgery.


Arizona official in human smuggling case seeks to keep seat

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona elected official accused of paying women from a poor Pacific island nation to give their babies up for adoption in the United States made an appeal Wednesday to keep his job. Lawyers for Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen told the county Board of Supervisors that he did not neglect his duties in office despite spending three weeks in jail before he was able to post bond. Peterson didn’t attend the hearing. The supervisors voted unanimously in October to place Petersen on an unpaid suspension for 120 days, ruling he'd neglected his office and used his county computer to do work for his adoption business. Petersen has pleaded not guilty in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah to charges stemming from his law firm's adoption practice.


Teen found competent to stand trial in a Tucson murder case

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A teenager accused of killing a Tucson high school student the day after graduation has been found mentally fit to stand trial. TV station KOLD reported 14-year-old Rene Manuel Yanez was in court Tuesday for a mental competency hearing. Prosecutors say Yanez will be tried as an adult on murder and other charges in Julian Zapeda’s shooting death on May 24. Yanez has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Dawn Priestman, Yanez’s attorney, declined to a request by The Associated Press to comment. The AP does not generally publish the names of juveniles who are charged with crimes, but is doing so in Yanez’s case because of the severity of the allegations and he is being tried as an adult.


Pinal County detention officer accused of sexual offense

COOLIDGE, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say a Pinal County detention officer has been arrested on suspicion of sexual exploitation of a minor. Phoenix police say the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested 42-year-old Rick Vasquez on Wednesday at his Coolidge home. Authorities say child pornography allegedly was discovered on Vasquez’s cellphone. Vasquez reportedly told authorities that he distributed the pictures and videos by way of social media. County Sheriff's officials say Vasquez has been put on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation.


Arizona Public Service CEO apologizes for billing tool error

PHOENIX (AP) — The new head of Arizona's largest electric utility has apologized for a faulty bill calculator that was supposed to help customers find the cheapest rate plan but instead steered 10,000 of them to higher-priced options. Arizona Public Service CEO Jeff Guldner told frustrated state utility regulators Wednesday that the company fell short. APS executives pledged to refund customers the amount they overpaid plus an additional $25 for the inconvenience. The billing error has incensed several members of the elected Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities such as APS.