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Job applicant disclosure bill derailed in Senate

A bill that would allow applicants for high-profile public positions to be kept secret until finalists are selected was tabled Friday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — A bill that would allow the names of applicants for top public school, law enforcement and other taxpayer-funded positions to be kept secret stalled Friday in a Senate committee.

The legislation, Senate Bill 39, is similar to legislation that passed the Senate in 2019.

But it was tabled Friday by a decisive vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with at least six senators voting in favor of the motion and Senate Majority Whip Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, casting the lone dissenting vote.

The vote means the bill is unlikely to move forward during the 60-day session that ends March 20, though it could still be revised and brought back up for consideration.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Bill Tallman, an Albuquerque Democrat, generated opposition from several government transparency groups.

Melanie Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said Friday the bill would make the hiring process more secretive.

And she previously said there has been no empirical proof shown that an open hiring process affects the ability of school districts, universities and government agencies to hire qualified candidates.

But Tallman claimed the current requirement that all candidates for top public positions be disclosed under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act has led to a dearth of qualified candidates in some instances.

At least three finalists for any such positions would still have to be disclosed under his bill, which was introduced as searches are underway for several high-profile Albuquerque jobs.

Albuquerque Public Schools recently resumed its search for the district’s next superintendent, after previously putting it on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The APS board is aiming to pick a superintendent in March so the new leader can start working by June.

In addition, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has launched a national search for the next Albuquerque Police Department chief and a public safety chief.

The city recently selected three finalists for the APD chief position: Interim chief Harold Medina; Clinton Nichols, the chief of police in Commerce City, Colo.; and Joseph Sullivan, a retired deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.

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