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Applicant-secrecy bill advances in Senate

Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A proposal to limit the disclosure of applicants for top government jobs is moving forward in the state Senate.

The legislation, Senate Bill 259, would allow government agencies to keep secret the identities of all but three finalists for some public jobs, through a new exemption in the state Inspection of Public Records Act.

The limited disclosure would be allowed in searches for a superintendent, city manager or other chief executive position in a local government or school district.

An earlier version of the proposal was much broader, but Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat and sponsor of the legislation, amended it Tuesday to focus on top executive positions, not other public jobs.

The earlier version of the proposal was opposed by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and others.

The foundation said that there was no evidence that the proposed secrecy would actually result in better applicants – as supporters had argued – and that the public has a right to examine the hiring practices of public agencies.

But no one testified against the amended version during Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

Tallman and other supporters said the proposal would help attract strong candidates for executive-level jobs – because some applicants won’t want their employers to know they’ve sought another position.

The bill passed on a 4-1 vote – with Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, in dissent – and must clear at least one more committee before reaching the Senate floor.

“I’m very pro-transparency,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, “but I think there’s something unique about employment and changing jobs.”

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