SANTA FE — After repeatedly emailing her concerns about the sale of Edgewood’s old town hall, Town Councilor Sherry Abraham brought up those apprehensions at a Jan. 13 council meeting.
But instead of being recognized by Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams, Abrams had Abraham removed from the meeting by Edgewood Police Chief Darrell Sanchez.
As mayor pro tem, Abrams ran the meeting because former mayor John Bassett was ordered removed from office by a district court judge for violating the town’s nepotism ordinance.
Councilor Abraham was trying to alert members of the council to an offer on the old town hall that wasn’t being considered. She heard from a concerned constituent there was a better offer for the building, so she did a public records request for all the offers made on the building.
The mayor pro tem excluded Abraham from the meeting for having “ex parte” communications regarding the sale of the building. Ex parte is a legal term that usually refers to one-sided communications in a court case that the other party isn’t aware of.
“I do believe I was illegally removed because I had every right to have this information,” Abraham told the Journal. “The other part of that is the mayor pro tem also had this information, as did the town clerk.”
Abraham said she emailed Abrams and Edgewood Town Clerk Juan Torres about the offer several times.
She also said town attorney Marcus Rael wasn’t present at the meeting. She said she and Councilor Audrey Jaramillo were told by Rael that he wasn’t going to respond to inquiries from them any more.
“This is a violation of the people’s rights,” Jaramillo said in an interview. “They duly elected Councilor Abraham to represent them, to speak for them, to be in meetings (and) to debate. And that right of the people and of Councilor Abraham herself to be in the meeting was taken away by the Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams and the Chief of Police.”
Abrams, Torres, Rael and Councilor Linda Holle did not respond to requests for interviews.
Melanie Major, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said the purchase offers are public documents and there are no restrictions on who can access them.
New Mexico Municipal League Attorney Randy Van Vleck told the Edgewood Independent that “ex parte communication is applied narrowly, in legal and quasi-judicial proceedings,” which didn’t apply to the sale of the old town hall.
It would be “highly unusual” to block a councilor from participating in the sale, he told The Independent.