IPRA and OMA during public health emergency

Openness and Transparency Advisory

Like you, we were saddened that COVID-19 was detected in New Mexico. However, we want you to know that the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has obtained some answers to questions about government openness and transparency during this public health emergency.

FOG asked the Attorney General’s office if there is an exception in the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) to exempt public officials from providing records during a health crisis. The answer was no.

More from the AG’s office…

Public employees who are working from home are reminded that the work products created on their private computers are subject to IPRA. This includes emails, texts, videos, etc., regarding the public’s business that may be on a private telephone. All of these records are subject to IPRA.

Public officials may wish to hold closed or executive meetings to discuss plans for the crisis. There is no provision in the Open Meetings Act that allows for this exception. In addition, if public officials hold a meeting by telephone or over the internet, the public must be able to listen or observe the proceedings. Minutes are still required and must be posted within 10 days of the meeting.

The OMA’s ban against rolling quorums remains in place.

The OMA has a provision for emergency meetings, but notice is still required.  For a meeting to be considered an emergency, it must involve issues that if not addressed would threaten the health, safety or property of its citizens.  OMA does relax agenda requirements in cases of emergency. An agenda must still be provided but it does not need to be available 24 hours before an emergency meeting.  All of the decisions made in an emergency meeting must be conveyed to the AG within 10 days of the meeting.

FOG will continue to provide free answers on our hotline to help with questions about records and meetings.