Questa school board cancels meeting after warning from attorney general

Short notice, improper agenda would have violated Open Meetings Act

Doug Cantwell -- dcantwell@taosnews.org
Posted 11/7/19
Questa school board President Daryl Ortega opened Thursday night's (Nov. 7) meeting by adjourning it, after receiving warning from the attorney general's office that the meeting would violate New Mexico's Open Meetings Act. 

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Questa school board cancels meeting after warning from attorney general

Short notice, improper agenda would have violated Open Meetings Act

Posted

Questa school board President Daryl Ortega opened Thursday night's (Nov. 7) meeting by adjourning it, after receiving warning from the attorney general's office that the meeting would violate New Mexico's Open Meetings Act. 

Earlier in the day, he had received an emailed letter from the attorney general's office signed by Assistant Attorney General Delilah Tenorio that advised him to cancel the meeting. 

As explained in the letter,  the special meeting had originally been scheduled for Nov. 5, but the board decided  late on Nov. 4 to reschedule it  to Nov. 7,  which meant that it did not meet the OMA's stipulation of "reasonable notice" – 72 hours (three business days) for a special meeting and 10 business days for a regular meeting.

The letter also stated that the notice of rescheduling  posted on the school district's website did not contain an agenda specifying the business items that would be addressed at the meeting – another potential OMA violation.

Shortly after the unexpected cancellation, Interim Superintendent Cathy Gallegos posted a revised notice and agenda  that rescheduled  the meeting to next Tuesday (Nov. 12). The new agenda includes a closed-door executive session during which the hire of a new district superintendent will be discussed.

The attorney general's office took the action  based on a community member's complaint that the rescheduling of the special meeting did not comply with OMA guidelines.

Board member Ellis Garcia showed up and took his usual seat at the Nov. 7 meeting, despite an Oct. 23 order from the attorney general ordering him to resign his position within 14 days [by Nov. 6] based on Garcia's 1992 felony conviction for conspiracy to commit arson.  The letter cites the New Mexico statute that prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from serving in an elected position.  

Garcia has taken action to challenge the attorney general's order and is currently awaiting a response to a letter submitted to the attorney general by  Samantha Adams, the Questa school board's legal counsel, on behalf of the board, arguing that  Garcia is in fact eligible to serve.

Look for more details in the Nov. 14 edtion of the Taos News.

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