Injunction hearing postponed

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Parties agree to meet Monday in District Court

By Carol A. Clark

The litigants on both sides of the controversy surrounding the impending referendum on the municipal building issue were set to square off Thursday afternoon in a Santa Fe district courtroom. But in an 11th hour agreement, the hearing was postponed until Monday.

The plaintiffs, George Chandler and wife Christine, are representing themselves and said they have agreed to give the county’s outside counsel, attorney Holly Agajanian, time to meet with her clients. Agajanian is representing Los Alamos County, the Los Alamos County Council and County Clerk Janet Foster.

“The hearing is rescheduled for 11 a.m. Monday. We have asked the judge to give us a ruling in the case by 3 p.m. Tuesday – that is the drop dead date for the county to stop the printing of ballots,” George Chandler said.

County Attorney Randy Autio had to recuse himself from representing the entities in the case because he had already rendered an opinion regarding the matter at a recent council meeting. At that meeting, Autio advised the council against holding a public election regarding placement and design of the new municipal building.

A majority of councilors approved constructing the building at the site of the former LA Apartments on Central Avenue during a meeting last January. They accepted that site, which was the recommendation of a 16-member citizen’s siting committee that the council appointed. The committee worked for four months analyzing 25 possible locations throughout Los Alamos and White Rock, and vetting those sites against 13 criteria provided by the council.

When the council recently voted 4-3 to accept a citizen petition presented by local resident Richard Hannemann calling for site determination of the new building go to a vote of the people, the Chandlers filed for an injunction.

The Chandlers are both local attorneys. They filed the injunction to stop the public election on the grounds that it is illegal based on the nature of the petition.

“To put the question on the ballot is clearly illegal. Whether the judge gives a preliminary injunction is at her discretion,” Chandler said. “We think we have a solid case.”

District Court Judge Barbara Vigil is scheduled to preside over Monday’s injunction hearing, which is open to the public. The hearing is set to take place in room 140 of the First Judicial District Courthouse at 100 Catron St., in Santa Fe.