Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Open meetings workshop for citizens, officials

Representatives of the state’s attorney general’s office will be in Clovis on Friday morning for a workshop aimed at taking some of the mystery out of New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act.

The session runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the Clovis-Carver Public Library’s North Annex.

We we believe it will be three hours well spent for anyone interested in open government.

Organizers have invited public officials as well as private citizens.

A spokesman for Attorney General Patricia Madrid told the Clovis News Journal last week that Madrid “has always been an advocate of open meetings and open government, and she just wants to make sure that both members of the community and local officials know the laws that keep meetings open.”

AG Spokesman Paul Nixon said similar workshops are being held across the state.

The state’s Open Meetings Act and Inspection of Public Records Act are New Mexico laws that apply to public bodies.

“These are regulations public bodies have to comply with to ensure the public is afforded the most maximum information,” said Luis Carrasco, one of the session’s organizers. “Any person can essentially go about obtaining information from a public body. This is to ensure that people are able to access information about the affairs of government and people who represent them.”

Presenters will include Bob Johnson, executive director of New Mexico’s Foundation for Open Government, a not-for-profit government watchdog that helps the public obtain records of public bodies and meetings.

The meeting is not just for government officials who want to be informed on the laws. And it’s not just for journalists who often clash with governmental authorities on interpretation of the laws. It’s an important meeting for the average citizen who wants to stay informed about government actions.

Any citizen has a right to inspect most documents produced by governmental entities, from court and police records to the minutes from city and county commission meetings.

A few exceptions prevent the public from accessing governmental records. Friday’s session will help explain those exceptions.

“The attorney general really encourages anyone involved in government or who is watching their government to attend this and learn more,” said Nixon, of the AG’s office.

The session will also provide information about ways to access public information with minimal inconvenience.

The Clovis News Journal will have representatives at the meeting to help ensure our reporting staff understands the state’s laws as they relate to open records and open meetings. We’re hopeful governmental entities throughout eastern New Mexico will also send representatives.

And we’d love to see private citizens taking an active interest in making sure government is open to the public.

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