Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A proposal to allow more secrecy in the hiring process for top government jobs easily cleared the state Senate on Friday and now heads to the House.
The legislation, Senate Bill 259, would create a new exemption in the state Inspection of Public Records Act – allowing government agencies to withhold the identities of all but three finalists for some public jobs.
Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat and sponsor of the proposal, said New Mexico is “at an obvious disadvantage in the competition for leadership talent” because of the public scrutiny allowed.
He cited the recent searches for a University of New Mexico president and superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, which he said failed to draw candidates from elsewhere who were already presidents or superintendents.
His bill, however, doesn’t actually apply to UNM, which is already allowed to limit disclosure to five finalists.
“No one can argue that we’re recruiting a lot of top candidates under the current system,” Tallman said.
The proposal passed 27-14. To be sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, it would also have to pass the House by noon next Saturday.
Friday’s vote didn’t fall along party lines, with Republicans and Democrats on both sides.
Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said his constituents in eastern New Mexico expect to have access to the full list of applicants for top government jobs. He was among the opponents.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and others say that there’s no evidence more secrecy would result in better applicants and that the public has a right to examine the hiring practices of public agencies.
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.
Tallman is a retired city manager.
The legislation is modeled after legislation in Colorado, supporters said, one of 36 states with similar laws.
“This is really critical,” said Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec. “You cannot expect to the get the best candidates that are secure in their job to apply if their name is going to be exposed.”