Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Two Off Properties Review Committee
By Deborah Baker
Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE — Two people appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to the state's Cultural Properties Review Committee in late February survived only one meeting, casualties of the ongoing dispute over the status of Mount Taylor as a protected site.
Ed Boles left the committee, and Richard Luarkie was removed by Martinez. The departures followed a March 17 meeting at which the committee voted to join the appeal of a court ruling overturning Mount Taylor's designation as a traditional cultural property.
According to Boles, who had been elected chairman, the governor's office asked him to have the Mount Taylor appeal decision reconsidered at the next meeting.
Boles had been appointed to a vacant position that expired April 1. On April 6, he sent the governor's office a letter declining reappointment. Boles, who is the historic preservation planner for the city of Albuquerque, declined to discuss his departure further. But a copy of the letter provided by Martinez's office indicates that Boles was troubled that his reappointment "seems related to the committee's vote" on the Mount Taylor litigation, and he objected that the governor's office had tried to influence him.
Martinez's spokesman, Scott Darnell, told the Journal on Tuesday that the committee on March 17 "had been briefed in the case by only one person from one side of the issue."
It had met in executive session with its attorney, John Pound, to discuss the litigation.
Adam Feldman, director of boards and commissions, asked Boles "if the board would be willing to discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, where alternative viewpoints could be shared," Darnell said.
Luarkie, the governor of Laguna Pueblo, was removed "due to a conflict of interest that was not appropriately disclosed," Darnell also said.
Luarkie didn't tell Martinez when he was appointed that Laguna Pueblo intended to join the appeal on the Mount Taylor designation, nor did he notify her when the pueblo did that, Darnell said. However, Luarkie had recused himself from the executive committee discussion and the Mount Taylor vote on March 17. And Laguna Pueblo was one of the tribes that had pushed for the 2009 designation of Mount Taylor as a traditional cultural property, a year before Martinez was elected. Luarkie could not be reached for comment this week.
In a challenge brought by uranium companies and landowners, state District Judge William Shoobridge ruled that the designation of Mount Taylor by the Cultural Properties Review Committee in 2009 was overly broad. That's what's being appealed.
Darnell said Martinez believes there should be a balance "between important cultural designations of land and the state's future economic growth." Her immediate concern was that a state entity would commit resources to join an appeal that was already under way by other entities, the spokesman said.