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RCLC meeting sidelined by open meetings act violation allegation

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By Tris DeRoma

Regional Coalition of LANL Communities members unexpectedly halted discussion of the executive director’s contract at their meeting Monday when a Los Alamos County Councilor and coalition representative claimed the meeting did not meet a requirement of the Open Meetings Act.

County Councilor Chris Chandler said she received a text message from the Los Alamos County Attorney Alvin Leapheart before the meeting started, questioning the validity of the meeting. “I received a text this morning from our county attorney, who asked me isn’t this meeting deemed a continuation of the previous meeting. I shared this text with the other members of the board,” Coalition member and Los Alamos County Councilor Chris Chandler told members of the coalition. “He says, if so, are they attempting to consider matters not appearing on the agenda of the original meeting. Apparently he views this in derogation of the open meetings act, because under the open meetings act you cannot add new items to a continuing meeting.”

Leapheart said he originated the text and was not asked to provide a legal opinion regarding the Open Meetings Act. Monday’s agenda included a review and discussion of RCLC Executive Director Andrea Romero’s services and agreement contract and review and discussion of the LANL Communities’ Joint Powers Agreement.

After a short conference with the Santa Fe County Attorney, the coalition agreed. “The agenda as noticed for continuation as we see it today doesn’t really allow the coalition to proceed forward on any type of action items,” Regional Coalition Chairman Javier Gonzales said at the meeting. Gonzales said that because of the rules of the Open Meetings Act, they would not be able move forward on a new contract for an executive director, nor would they be able to address expenditures made by Romero on a Washington D.C. trip. “…Again, the concern is this agenda was noticed as a continuation of a meeting that had some requirements that were not met particularly being able to, adequately at the time of the break, to state where the location would be when we were meeting.”

Coalition members agreed that a meeting to discuss and decide these issues should be held March 16, with a time and location to be determined. By not discussing the contract, the coalition is now left without an executive director. Romero offered to remain as a volunteer director until the issue was decided at the coalition’s next meeting, but Chandler said that would not be a good idea and that Romero should turn over all passwords and files to Los Alamos County until the coalition selects a new contractor. Los Alamos County Council had already set a special meeting for Monday night, to discuss the regional coalition’s recent issues.

Los Alamos County Chairman David Izraelevitz said he had asked for the special meeting and the council planned to talk about establishing a “path forward” for the coalition. County councilors will also discuss a pending ethics investigation being put forward by Councilors James Chrobocinksi and Susan O’Leary on the Coalition’s issues. The Los Alamos County Council special session begins at 6 p.m. at the Municipal County Building in Council Chambers.