Mayor urges strict compliance with Open Meetings Act

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said last week that he wants to avoid even the appearance of holding secret meetings.

At his first City Council meeting as mayor, he said council members shouldn’t even sit next to each other during events they attend outside of council meetings.

He said he wanted to make sure the council strictly followed the state Open Meetings Act, which prevents a quorum of members from talking about public business outside of advertised meetings.

With the city’s governing body of the mayor and four council members, a quorum consists of three of them.

Councilwoman Diane Moore disagreed with the idea that the council couldn’t sit together at public events. She said sitting together would show unity to the community.

Councilwoman Tonita Gurule-Giron agreed.

“We are a team, and we need to act together as a team,” she said.

Ortiz conceded that he may have gone “overboard” in his interpretation of the Open Meetings Act, but he said he wanted to avoid any appearances of violating the law.

City Manager Timothy Dodge suggested an orientation for members on open-meetings issues “to get everyone on the same page.”

Some governing bodies in New Mexico avoid having quorums of members be together outside of public meetings. But others, including the San Miguel County Commission, interpret the state Open Meetings Act differently. For instance, the commission sometimes has lunches before its monthly meetings, but members say they don’t discuss public business.