Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Three Republican legislators say a task force they helped establish – focusing on foster families and children in protective custody – is operating in private and “dominated by secret meetings.”
They are asking Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, to determine whether the task force has violated state law by failing to properly notify the public of its meetings.
The request is part of a letter signed by Republican Reps. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, Kelly Fajardo of Belen and David Gallegos of Eunice.
Fajardo said she’s lost count of the number of complaints she’s heard about the task force.
“I have heard concerns from sitting task force members, social workers, providers, foster parents and constituents,” she said in a written statement. “The message is clear: The public is upset that they are not being invited to participate in critical public policy creation.”
Charlie Moore-Pabst, a spokesman for the Children, Youth and Families Department, said the task force meetings aren’t subject to the Open Meetings Act because the members don’t make binding decisions. But the group, he said, has had one public meeting and one that was closed to the public.
Matt Baca, a spokesman and senior counsel in Balderas’ office, said the attorney general will immediately review the request for an opinion.
In the meantime, he said, “We strongly advise the Legislature to mandate that study committees are subject to transparency laws.”
The task force was established through a bipartisan joint memorial passed last year. The memorial called on the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department to convene a task force that would recommend ways to better protect children and improve resources for foster families.
The group’s findings are due in October.
Moore-Pabst said the department has limited the number of people who attend the meetings to help make the task force’s work more efficient and to ensure it can get its work done in time.
But it will hold some public meetings, he said, and the department accepts public comments through email at email@example.com.”>href=”http://cyfd.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The expertise and voices of New Mexican young people and families is critical to building a well functioning CYFD,” the department’s secretary, Brian Blalock, said in a written statement. “The department will continue to build multiple pathways to engage the public.”
Full coverage of the 2020 legislative session: https://www.abqjournal.com/legislature