Village Cures OMA Violation: Recloses Fire Hall

By Kathleen Sloan

HERALD Reporter

Village of Williamsburg Trustees held another special meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m. This was better attended, with about 15 residents, than the prior two special meetings held since July 30. The agenda items were first, closing the fire hall and second, discussing options for reorganization.

The trustees said they were reclosing the fire hall because the first closure, at the regular meeting held Thursday, Aug. 9, violated the Open Meetings Act. It was not on the agenda, and items not on the agenda may not be discussed or acted upon. This meeting cured that violation. The motion to close was passed unanimously. Mayor Carole Schuiling was not present.

However, the village formed the volunteer fire department in 1972 by ordinance. The New Mexico Municipal League, in their publication titled “Handbook for Municipal Clerks,” Chapter 6, Page 6-6, states it takes an ordinance to change an ordinance, which has the force of law.

An ordinance amendment or repeal, just like an ordinance, requires “publication,” which means at least two weeks before a public hearing is held on the matter – at minimum – the subject of the ordinance must be published in a local newspaper. The ordinance itself must be made available at Village Hall.

The public hearing statements are a matter of record, and the trustees are supposed to enact the will of the people as their representatives. The decision to pass, amend or repeal an ordinance is supposed to provide for the safety, welfare and health of the community.

Therefore the trustees’ closure of the fire hall without public hearing or following ordinance due process goes against State Law.

At the meeting, trustees said they would look into the matter, and if required, will close the fire hall by ordinance.

A second legality was discussed. Stubblefield said a search for the extrication contract with the county revealed one from the year 2000, which has no 30-day cancellation clause.

County Manager Janet Porter Carrejo gave The Herald the same year 2000 contract, but it had two extra pages, one of which contains the 30-day cancellation clause. The pages are not numbered, but the contract has numbered sections one through six with the signature page last. The village contract has sections one and two, is missing sections three through six, but includes the signature page.

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