This afternoon, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government issued the following statement in regard to the process for selecting a replacement for Sen. Phil Griego, who resigned yesterday from the New Mexico Senate:
FOG urges all counties involved with nominating candidates for the vacant seat in State Senate District 39 to follow the requirements of the New Mexico Open Meetings Act. Specifically, all meetings of county governing bodies at which the nomination is discussed must be public. Furthermore, the counties must give notice of such meetings, including publication of the agenda, at least 72 hours before the meeting. If the counties hold improper meetings in violation of the Act, any actions they take at such meetings, including any nominations to fill the Senate seat, will be invalid.
Although the Act includes an emergency exception to the 72-hour notice requirement, this exception is very narrow and is limited to situations, which, “if not addressed immediately by the public body, will likely result in injury or damage to persons or property or substantial financial loss to the public body.” No such situation exists. The residents of Senate District 39 deserve to have their senator appointed in a manner that allows for thoughtful, reasoned consideration, and are entitled to meaningfully participate in the process. Whoever is appointed to fill this position will serve not just for this week but for the remainder of Sen. Griego’s term. As a result, the process must be done with due care and in compliance with the Act.
FOG also urges Governor Martinez not to appoint any replacement for Sen. Griego until all of the affected counties have had the opportunity to make nominations at properly noticed meetings. To do otherwise would be to undermine both the spirit and the letter of the Open Meetings Act.