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Board of Commissioners meeting to be livestreamed

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The Chaves County Board of Commissioners is due to consider issues concerning its labor management relations board, the 2021 legislative session and the recommendations of the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission at its meeting this week.

These topics are among the agenda items that commissioners could vote on during their 9 a.m. Thursday meeting.

County Manager Stanton Riggs said the meeting will be livestreamed on the county Facebook page.

“The public will not be allowed into the meeting,” Riggs said. “However, they will be allowed to ask questions on Facebook.”

State public health orders that took effect Monday limit gatherings indoors or outdoors to five or fewer people, with the exception of public officials who are conducting public business.

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One agenda item recommended by staff is to adopt a resolution Riggs said was drafted by New Mexico Counties, a group that advocates on behalf of and provides training for county officials.

The resolution would oppose the recommendations of the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, which was formed by legislation passed during the 2020 special legislative session and is due to operate at least until March.

A Nov. 13 draft of a Civil Rights Commission report said it is seeking to have the 2021 Legislature pass a Civil Rights Act. Among other things, the act would not allow local governments to claim “qualified immunity” as a defense to lawsuits.

Qualified immunity, in general, does not allow people to receive compensation for damages, injuries or violations of rights that result from actions taken by public officials, including police, during their public duties.

The resolution contends that the commission is made up of and staffed by people with a history of representing people who have sued governments. It also said the commission did not seek a balanced perspective or accept public comments when reaching its recommendations.

The resolution stated that the commission’s recommendations and the proposed bill will not solve the issues intended to be redressed. Instead, it asks the Legislature to provide more funding for law enforcement and jail operations; for training and investigating law enforcement officers; and for treatment of drug problems and mental health issues that the resolution contends are often at the root of law enforcement and detention center problems.

Another resolution recommended by county staff would oppose the current plans being discussed about the 2021 legislative session, now scheduled to start Jan. 19.

“Chaves County strongly believes in open and transparent government and these rules violate these (principles),” a county document states.

District 58 Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, told commissioners at a Nov. 10 meeting that she had real concerns about the proposed ideas to close the State Capitol to the public and to move committee meetings to other venues, including possibly the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. She said online meetings are known for technological glitches.

She also agreed with a commissioner that conducting work online or virtually represents a problem with keeping proposed legislation secure and accurate. The original printed bill and its printed amendments known as the “jacketed” bill are intended to be the official record of legislation, they said.

The issues were being debated among legislators at press time. In general, Democrats favored moving ahead with a session in January using teleconferencing or alternative venues, while Republicans would prefer either opening up the Capitol and allowing in-person meetings or else delaying all or some of the session.

Another issue before commissioners is whether to hold a public hearing at 9 a.m. on Dec. 17 to pass an ordinance that would allow the county’s Labor Management Relations Board to continue.

“If we don’t pass this, then our local board will cease to exist and we will have to utilize the State Board,” Riggs said. “One of the issues with the State Board is the time it will take to hear the case. Currently there is only one State Board, and they have a backlog of cases.”

The county has one union, a local chapter of the International Union of Police Associations that represents sheriff’s deputies.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.