Director says EPCOG will follow state open meetings laws

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Eastern Plains Council of Governments’ Interim Director Richard Arguello says a meeting held Wednesday without proper public notice was an oversight that won’t happen again.

Sharna Johnson, CNJ staff writer

Eastern Plains Council of Governments Interim Director Richard Arguello said Thursday the organization’s failure to notify the public of an executive committee meeting was an oversight that won’t happen again.

“I’m going to say that it’s my fault on this,” Arguello said.

“We had a little faux pas there … it was a miscommunication (and) I assure you that’s not going to happen again.”

Wednesday, the board met in special session and adjourned into a near two-hour executive session to discuss personnel matters, according to an agenda.

Notice of the meeting, which was scheduled early last week according to board members, was not published in accordance with state open government laws.

Arguello said the procedure was misunderstood and staff thought since the meeting was outside the regular schedule, it was to be treated like an emergency meeting and thus did not have to be published.

“I discussed that with the staff member and there was a little confusion there,” he said.

“In this situation we notified our secretary that we were going to have the special meeting and I thought she published it. She’s just horrified and distraught … it was just an oversight.”

Arguello said Wednesday’s meeting was the only special meeting he is aware of committee having in the time he’s been with EPCOG.

Arguello said as was done in November, the board adopts a resolution annually outlining its adherence to the Open Meetings Act.

The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to discuss, “some personnel issues that we’ve been looking at going into,” he said, adding, “There weren’t any decisions made (at the meeting), it was just an informative session.”

According to the New Mexico Open Meetings Act, “Any meetings at which the discussion or adoption of any proposed resolution, rule, regulation or formal action occurs and at which a majority or quorum of the body is in attendance, and any closed meetings, shall be held only after reasonable notice to the public.”

Board Member Gary Watkins said Wednesday evening he had assumed EPCOG took care of public notification for the meeting and did not know the meeting was not held in compliance with open meetings requirements.

EPCOG is a consortium representing seven counties in eastern New Mexico and helps local governments with infrastructure planning and economic development. It includes Union, Harding, Quay, Guadalupe, De Baca, Curry, and Roosevelt counties.

The executive committee includes Curry County Commissioner Caleb Chandler, De Baca County Commissioner Pow Carter, Harding County Commissioner Mike Lewis, Watkins, a Portales City Councilman and Arguello, who is also a Union County commissioner.