The Bosque Farms Village Council unanimously voted Thursday to amend its open meetings resolution by giving the public notice on when and where every meeting — including committee sessions — will be held.
Village Attorney David Chavez told the council that, although there is no requirement to publish committee meetings, there may be a lapse of public trust if the council continues to not publicize the meetings.
“There’s really two issues going on,” Chavez told the council. “The issue is whether or not the meetings are gathering facts or making policy. And the bottom line is really a gray area.”
In the past, the village has always given notice of meetings at which policies are decided. The issue of the open meetings resolution surfaced in regards to the bike-path committee and the planning and zoning re-write committee.
“As long as they are gathering information and not working on policy, there’s no requirement by the attorney general to publish a notification,” he said. “The real crux is that are these committees setting policy versus that the policy still has to go before the board before any action is taken?”
Chavez informed the council he didn’t believe it would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act because the committees were basically gathering facts. The village attorney did say, however, that a conservative view would be to publish all the meetings.
“You won’t get into that gray area if you do publish all the meetings,” Chavez said. “You just have to use your best judgment and have a good guideline. There is a suspicion that is gathered by the public if a committee is closed to the public.”
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Sharon Eastman told the council it would be in the best interest of the village to publish notices of all meetings. She also quoted from the village’s open meeting’s resolution which says, “notice shall be given to the public at least 24 hours in advance of any regular meeting of a quorum of the members of the governing body or any board, commission, committee, agency, authority or any policy-making body held for the purpose of discussing public business or taking any action.”
Eastman told the board she believes that any board that is discussing public business, such as spending money on bike paths or formulating policy on recommended changes to zoning ordinances, should notify the public of the meetings.
“I do not think any committee in this village would even consider having a closed meeting and not posting where those meetings are,” Eastman said.
She also read from a letter from an attorney of the Muni-cipal League that said even if a committee recommends policy to the governing board, a notice shall be given to the public.
The council also unanimously voted to allow absent council members and planning and zoning commissioners to attend the meetings through conference calls on the telephone.
In other business:
- The council voted to change a portion of the sign ordinance that would allow the village to charge an individual a $50 fee to erect a banner above a village street. The council said a permit will be issued to an individual who wants to set up a banner across NM 47 only after the State Highway Department approves it.
The final vote is expected to take place during next month’s regular meeting.
- A zone change request from SU-1 (special use) to C-1 (commercial) was approved for SanBar Construction Co., located at 1100 Bosque Farms Blvd.
- The council accepted a bid from Safety Services for sewer yard line and grinder pump installation for $635 per installation and $100 for required dewatering.
- Police officers will now be allowed to collect overtime pay after working 80 hours in a two-week pay period. The council unanimously voted to approve the recommendation after Councilor David Linthicum pointed out that officers only received overtime pay after working 86 hours during a pay period.
- Councilman Wayne Ake volunteered to head a committee that will look into changing the current required lot size (three-quarters of an acre) on Bosque Farms Boulevard to a quarter acre.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.