Workshop may have opened the books

By David Stevens: Clovis News Journal Editor

Dozens of public officials and associates showed up last week for a workshop explaining New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act sponsored by the state’s attorney general.
And it looks like some of our elected and appointed leaders learned several things about what those laws require them to do.
First, Clovis’ public schools officials notified the Clovis News Journal they plan to reimburse the paper nearly $100 for charges associated with a recent request for public records.
The school had charged the paper for an employee’s time in compiling salary records. The attorney general’s office said that was wrong, that public servants cannot charge extra, only a reasonable fee for any copies of public documents. School Superintendent Neil Nuttall volunteered the refund right after the workshop.
Then, two days ago, Clovis Community College took two strides toward promotion of open government at its regular board meeting. CCC officials established a written policy for the inspection of public records that meets the guidelines recommended by the attorney general.
Even more encouraging, on the agenda for its board meeting Wednesday, the college listed an executive session topic, to discuss an “employee contract matter.” Previously, college agenda items had stated only “limited personnel” or other vague reasons for executive sessions, which the AG’s office has repeatedly stated does not meet the law’s “reasonable specificity” standard.
Could this reflect a desire by college officials to operate in the sunshine, where it’s easier for the public to see what they’re doing? That would be encouraging.
Now, if the city of Clovis and Curry County will follow the college’s lead in providing “reasonable specificity” when adjourning into executive sessions, that would be even more encouraging.

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Not every letter to the editor sent in is published in the newspaper.
Sometimes letters are too long, or they don’t come from local writers, or they’re libelous or potentially libelous. Sometimes they focus on private, for-profit businesses and writers’ motivations are not always easily discernible. Or they’re critical of non-public individuals whose privacy may be unfairly invaded. Sometimes they make no sense.
And sometimes they repeat viewpoints already expressed in earlier letters or guest columns.
That last reason applies to some letters recently sent in on the John Jacobs case involving attempted criminal sexual penetration. We’ve published more than a dozen comments and two guest columns in the last three weeks that have covered the topic from different viewpoints. We’ve reached the cutoff point.
It is time to move the public discourse on to the next controversial issue. Your letters are welcome.

David Stevens is editor for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be contacted at 1-800-819-9925. His e-mail
address is:
david_stevens@link.freedom.com