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Editorial: Criminal Justice Council should seek more sunshine

Given its makeup – officials from the city, the county, probation and parole, the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the public defender’s office, the 2nd Judicial District Court, the county’s Metropolitan Court, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the District Attorney’s Office – it’s surprising that the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council can’t quite see the light to comply with the state’s Open Meetings Act.

So Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez and Rob Perry, Albuquerque’s chief administrative officer, have asked state Attorney General Hector Balderas, in a letter, to require the council to open their meetings to the public.

The council meets monthly to discuss public safety and criminal justice issues – weighty issues in a metro area beset with crime and sitting at the very apex of the car thievery meter. Why wouldn’t their discussions be put out there for everyone to see or hear?

Local law enforcement and Albuquerque city officials want the council to take that step. However, court officials and public defenders are balking.

Because the council was originally controlled by the court, its meetings didn’t have to comply with the Open Meetings Act, according to Chief District Judge Nan Nash. Plus, court officials said there is the knotty problem of which agency would do the paperwork to comply. Surely a group of educated, highly motivated and dedicated public servants could put their heads together and figure out the details.

This should be a no-brainer – the council creates public policy and is bound by law to follow the state’s sunshine law. Stalling serves no one.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.