Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

In addition to last week's story...


In last week’s Quay County Sun, I led a story about the Tucumcari City Commission with an account of a dispute between the city manager and a city commissioner at the commission’s Feb. 25 meeting and its aftermath — a move to end a final discussion by commissioners before adjournment, which has been always been a part of regular meeting agendas.

Granted, it’s a cheap journalistic trick to exaggerate the importance of a disagreement just because it makes for a fun read.

I had my reasons for leading with the controversy, however, including the rarity of dissension in this commission’s atmosphere of unanimity, which has news value.

More important to me, however, were:

• the question of whether the commission should stifle dissent, even when emotions run high.

• the questions that the dispute raised about the roles of commissioners and the manager.

It was my mistake not to have named these issues in last week’s story, but I still think they bear mentioning.

It was clear that District 1 Commissioner Ralph Moya would have continued in “Items from Commissioners” the heated dispute between him and City Manager Jared Langenegger over two situations in which city administration had decided not to take corrective measures on matters involving private property.

The question is whether Moya should have been allowed to further air his complaints.

Moya, of course, voted to continue with “Items from Commissioners.” District 4 Commissioner Robert Lumpkin agreed with Moya, saying that while he may disagree with the dissent, the dissenter should not be denied an opportunity to be heard.

They were outvoted by the other three commissioners, however, and the commission went to adjournment.

It’s an open question to me, however, whether continuing the dispute, which would have generated far more heat than light, should have been a greater concern than denying a commissioner an opportunity to speak out, which could be interpreted as censorship.

Earlier, Moya had raised questions about the powers of commissioners and the city manager and said city easements on private property make the easements city property.

Moya said the city should trim trees that had become a traffic hazard because the trees were on easement land. City Manager Langenegger said the city could require the property owner to trim the trees, since they were on private property.

I think the law favors Langenegger. Easements allow another entity to use private land for specific purposes. Otherwise the property is the owner’s responsibility.

Langenegger also said the city would not replace a fence that a city trash truck had struck, because the fence was in very poor condition before it was bumped, and the impact was not enough to destroy the fence.

Moya called that a refusal by the city to take responsibility for its actions.

Without knowing more, I have no opinion.

Moya also reminded Langenegger that Langenegger is bound by decisions of the commission, which is also true in that Langenegger is responsible for executing ordinances and resolutions the commission passes. It is also true that the manager serves at the commission’s pleasure.

Moya’s other claim that he should have the right to bring constituent complaints to the commission for public discussion, is a little doubtful.

In a commission/manager city government like Tucumcari’s, the commission is considered the “legislative branch of the municipality,” according to the New Mexico Municipal League.

The intent, it would seem, is that the commission makes policy, but leaves day-to-day decisions, such as those related to most individual constituent complaints, to the city manager.

The municipal league issues guidance, not laws, however, and the city’s municipal code does not address the general intent of the commission. I need to check the commission’s own rules and procedures.

These questions are why I thought the dispute between Moya and Langenegger were worthy of the lead of my commission story rather than the commission’s most important action.

I don’t regret the decision, but I certainly could have explained it better.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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