ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque and the mayor have pushed for more transparency so that the public knows how their money is being spent. However, KRQE News 13 found some things aren’t as transparent as you think, and they’re actually breaking the law.
“We are in essence on the front line defending the first amendment,” said Melanie Majors.
Majors is with the New Mexico Foundation of Open Government. It’s a non-partisan advocacy group that aims for a more transparent government, and one of those transparency tools is a law created in the ’70s known as the Open Meetings Act.
“It does require that they do certain things, and of course, they take action in public so that the public knows how their money is being spent, what their officials are doing, and what the expected outcome should be,” said Majors.
Outside of City Council, Albuquerque has 60 boards and commissions that focus on specific things, from a Municipal Golf Advisory Board, a Balloon Fiesta Park Commission, even a Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission. They fall under the Open Meetings Act, but KRQE News 13 found a third of them are not compliant.
“Not only you have to provide an agenda, but there’s a time frame provided to the public and that’s 72 hours,” said Majors. “It’s not a suggestion, it’s the law.”
For example, the agenda for the Sunport’s Airport Advisory Committee is not posted, but their meeting is in less than 24 hours. The Arts Board says they meet every third Wednesday and claim they follow the rules, but their agendas are nowhere to be found. Even the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council is behind on posting their agendas.
“Well, I feel very sad not knowing where our money will be going and spent,” said local Eileen Santillanes. “Our tax money is important and we’d like to know where it goes.”
“There are rules for reasons and it’s to serve us, because, in the end, it is about us because the boards serve people, serve the citizens,” said local Michael Hacker. “So they need to comply with regulations.”
Some boards and commissions are also breaking state laws by not posting their minutes from the meetings. If they don’t comply with those regulations, those meetings could be null and void.
After KRQE News 13’s story aired on Wednesday, the city said it’s planning to install new software to streamline the process of posting meeting agendas and minutes for its many boards and commissions. The mayor’s office says it wants to ensure they’re meeting high standards of public transparency. The new software is expected to be ready within the next month.