Tuesday, December 09, 2014

APS OMA violation "legal" - my mistake

There are two ways of looking at a law like NM's Open Meetings Act;

  1. the letter of the law and
  2. the spirit of the law.
The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording. wikilink

When I accused the APS School Board of violating the Open Meetings Act in their failure to post the agenda according to the OMA, it was based on my incorrect assumption that Saturdays, Sundays and holidays don't count when calculating the 72 hours.  Apparently they do - according to the letter of the law.

In my defense, hard facts are hard to come by. 

One is supposed to be able to go to the NM Attorney General's Office website and view or download a copy of the OMA and of the AG's Compliance Guide.  One cannot, it's broken.  I searched earnestly for a reference and could find none.  Even the NM FOG links to an outdated OMA.

In any case, the spirit of the law; the Open Meeting Act, is to give interest and stakeholders enough time to understand what is on the agenda and to decide whether, and how, they want to participate in the decision making.

The APS school board, by their deliberate decision gives interest and stakeholders only as little time as the law requires.  This, in stark contrast to the standards of conduct the board annually reestablishes and enforces on students. 

Student standards require students, in no uncertain terms, to hold themselves accountable to higher standards of conduct; standards which require;
their willingness to do more than the law requires and
less than the law allows,
or forfeit their good character.

Further evidence of the intention of the leadership of the APS to keep interest and stakeholders in the dark is found in agenda wording.  The law requires reasonable specificity in describing (in particular) what goes on in their meetings in secret, and by logical extension, in describing their intentions with respect to agenda items.

Take for example, from the regular board meeting agenda, link, these two items;
  • B. Superintendent Search Firm Planning (Discussion) ...
  • II. Approval of Revisions to GB12 Employees as Duly Appointed or Elected Officials
Under the first, they made their decision to give their next superintendent a 20% raise.

Under the second, they tried to pass a motion that would have resulted in APS administrators getting paid to serve in the legislature.

I aver, both of these are topics of interest to interest and stakeholders, and obscure descriptions of the board's intentions denied meaningful stake and interest holder participation in the decision making surrounding those issues.

There are two ways of telling the truth.  Both are manifest in the APS;
  1. one involves candor, forthrightness and honesty.  It is reflected in APS student standards of conduct.
  2. The other involves telling only as much truth as the law absolutely requires.
There is a chance to change truth telling in the APS
It comes in the form of an election of school board members in February.

If you are content with knowing only as much about the spending of your resources and the wielding of your power, as the law absolutely requires, you need do nothing.

If on the other hand, you want candor, forthrightness and honesty in the spending of your power and resources, you are going to have to elect some new board members.

It's up to you.

photo Mark Bralley

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