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UNM naming names in public meeting agenda

When the board that oversees New Mexico’s largest public hospital moves its meeting behind closed doors on Friday, its discussion will not be a total mystery.

The University of New Mexico Hospital Board of Trustees has alerted the public that it will consider recommendations to permanently appoint four psychiatrists, three orthopedic practitioners, and 46 other doctors and health care providers.

The trustees have also signaled plans to discuss expanding telemedicine privileges for 22 doctors in its Obstetrics and Gynecology department and the types of procedures certain other physicians can perform.

The extensive detail comes via the meeting’s eight-page agenda, a document clearly outlining which “personnel matters” the board will address in private. The agenda identified all of the aforementioned employees by name, marking a departure for the university.

UNM has typically used the generic phrase “discussion and determination where appropriate of limited personnel matters” to explain closed-door discussions. But New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office last month called that language problematic.

In addressing citizen complaints that the July 19 UNM Board of Regents meeting agenda was not specific enough to meet the state’s Open Meetings Act requirements, Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp’s written opinion stated that UNM’s “personnel matters” line was “overly broad and vague.”

“To be clear: OMA’s limited personnel matters exception allows a public body to discuss an individual public employee, and to satisfy the reasonable specificity requirement, the public body must list the specific individual employee to be discussed by the Board,” he wrote.

The UNMH board did not heed that guidance initially.

The board’s first agenda for Friday’s meeting was a single page without including such detail. But after the Journal raised questions about the agenda with Balderas’ office, representatives contacted UNM’s legal office.

“We had told them there were concerns and some things would probably need to be changed,” said David Carl, the attorney general’s office spokesman.

UNM then released the updated eight-page agenda.

“We took a look and revised the agenda” after the Attorney General’s office relayed the concerns, UNM Health Sciences Center spokeswoman Alex Sanchez said in an email. “We are in the process of looking at our meeting notices and agendas as part of our commitment to transparency and compliance with the Open Meetings Act.”

The Foundation for Open Government, which advocates for transparency by public agencies, praised UNM for making the change.

“The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government supports UNMH’s efforts to comply with a recent Attorney General opinion requiring more sufficient information when announcing items to be discussed in closed session,” Melanie J. Majors, NMFOG’s executive director said in a written statement. “While we are quick to point out when public bodies violate the Open Meetings Act (OMA), it is just as important for the public to know when there is voluntary compliance. We applaud UNMH’s efforts.”