It’s a brand new year, with a brand new 60-day state legislative session. Yet as some talk about trying to move the state forward, one powerful New Mexico lawmaker would take it back, quite literally, to the dark ages of government accountability and transparency.
It is shocking that Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, thinks it’s a good idea to allow public agencies in New Mexico to keep the results of their applicant searches secret until they are down to one (or a few) finalist(s) for a top job at a public agency, institution or local government – and then only let the public in on the pick a week or so before it’s finalized. And at that point, all the public that is going to pay this person’s salary is allowed to know is the finalist’s name and résumé.
There will be no clue, of course, about whether there were better qualified applicants. Or whether there were minority applicants who were long shut out of things like searches for university presidents in New Mexico. But hey, if nobody knows….
Right now all applicants and their résumés are subject to the state Inspection of Public Records Act, which guarantees public access to public records and says the public is entitled to the greatest amount of information possible about its government. And that came after close to four decades of hard-fought court battles that pitted news media, including the Journal, and transparency groups against government agencies. (The only exception: university president searches, in which only the top five finalists must be made public.)