Column: Open Meeting Called Into Question

By Gene Schmidt
Los Alamos Superintendent of Schools

The Los Alamos School Board strives with great diligence to comply with the statutory rules for conduct of its open meetings in order to ensure transparency in government.

A Special Board meeting was held on May 24, 2012 to approve the 2012-13 Operating Budget.

At that meeting, the Board acted to amend the salary provisions of two collective bargaining agreements with existing school employee bargaining units in order to assure that employee contracts drafted at the end of the school year properly reflected the salaries authorized by the approved budget.

However, a question was raised about the district’s compliance with the New Mexico Open Meetings Act by including the staff increases into the collective bargaining agreements so that they would be consistent with the action for budget approval, which was shown on the agenda.

Clearly, the Board did not intend to violate any statutory requirement when it took its action on May 24.

However, in response to a complaint that was filed with the Attorney General of New Mexico by the Los Alamos Monitor and its recent coverage of this event, it is important for the community to know that it is the intent of the Board to fully comply with all requirements of the New Mexico Open Meetings Act in publishing its meeting notices, distributing agendas, and conducting business at all of its School Board meetings.

Because a question was raised as to whether its agenda may not have completely satisfied all technical requirements of the Open Meetings Act in conducting its business at its May 24, 2012 Special Board meeting, the Board held a Special Meeting on June 28, 2012 and adopted a corrective Resolution, with public notice as called for by the Act, to publicly address and ratify the motion for a 3 percent raise for staff.

This action was taken before any directive or decision was handed down by the Attorney General’s Office, and before the Monitor’s July 4 article District pay raise vote lacked transparency, which reported on the May 24 meeting more than five weeks after the fact.

The Resolution was approved in order to attempt to resolve the issue and allow the School Board to move on to other pressing issues.

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