City manager finalists named

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Tucumcari city commissioners announced the names of three finalists for the city manager’s position on Thursday.

The finalists are
• John D. Berchtold of Charlotte, Mich.
• Boyd A. Kraemer of Benson, Ariz.
• John R. Sutherland of Flagstaff, Ariz.

All the candidates met the minium requirements and a bachelor’s degree and three years of city managerial experience, said Mayor Mary Mayfield.

Commissioners Mayfield, Jim Witcher and Jim Lafferty also voted to pay reasonable expenses for the candidates to come to Tucumcari to interview. Commissioner Antonio Apodaca was not present at the meeting and Commissioner Christopher Maestas was not present for the vote.

The position became open March 1 when the former city manager, Richard Primrose, started as Quay County manager.

Commissioners said the three finalists will be interviewed on March 24.

At this time, the commissioners have not set a date to hire a city manager. Clara Rey is the interim city manager.
Thursday’s meeting ended in drama when one city commissioner walked out of an executive session meeting, claiming the city had violated New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act and he didn’t want to be part of an illegal meeting.

Maestas said the meeting was called to discuss payment of expenses for the city manager finalists.

State law allows public officials to meet in private to discuss limited personnel matters. Maestas and Bob Johnson, executive director of New Mexico’s Foundation for Open Government, said the law does not allow officials to meet in private to discuss expenses.

Maestas also said the city violated state law when Mayfield called commissioners prior to the meeting to talk about the expense issue.

Mayfield said she did not intend to poll all of the commissioners prior to the meeting, but when some did not answer when she called originally, she called others. Then when commissioners returned her calls, she also talked with them about the expense topic.

Mayfield also said she called about the expenses of only one of the candidates, the one who lived farthest away.
Johnson said contacting commissioners outside of an open meeting is known as a “rolling quorum” and referred to a recent court case involving the Las Cruces Sun-News and the city of Las Cruces.

In that case, a district judge ruled that the city violated the Open Meetings Act by conducting a rolling poll in 2002 during ethics allegations against a city councilor, news reports show.

Johnson also said discussion of expenses for interviews are personnel policy issues, not limited personnel matters, and therefore must be conducted in open meetings.
It was not immediately clear whether actions taken at Thursday’s meeting will stand in light of allegations that the city violated the Act.

“We will be contacting our (city) attorney,” Mayfield said.