By Mary Alice Murphy

In a quick opening to a special meeting on Dec. 18, 2019, the Grant County Commission went into executive session for about 45 minutes, then came back into open session and approved the contract renewal amended version 7 for County Manager Charlene Webb.

Commissioners' reports followed.

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards said she had two items to address.

"We have notes on the strategic plan from October," Edwards said. "Our next strategic plan meeting is set for January 16. Can we complete our notes and comments so that I can compile them for the meeting? The two things I'm asking for are a commitment from each of you to do it and want you to set a date for when it is due to me. We need to develop our five-year target for the county. You need to identify what you think the five-year target should be. I would need two-to-three- days to compile them. It would be good for you to have them to me by Thursday, Jan 9."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne said he could have them to Edwards by end of day on Jan. 11.

"And the second thing I want to address is that I want to express my apology to the county manager for the time it took us to get to this point," Edwards said. "It is quite the challenge with five people with five different opinions. We worked out things and then were informed by counsel that we were in violation of the Bateman Act."

According to https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2006/nmrc/jd_6-6-11-2365.html, 6-6-11. Yearly expenditures limited to income; Bateman Act.
It is unlawful for any board of county commissioners, municipal governing body or any local school board, for any purpose whatever to become indebted or contract any debts of any kind or nature whatsoever during any current year which, at the end of such current year, is not and cannot then be paid out of the money actually collected and belonging to that current year, and any indebtedness for any current year which is not paid and cannot be paid, as above provided for, is void. Any officer of any county, municipality, school district or local school board, who shall issue any certificate or other form of approval of indebtedness separate from the account filed in the first place or who shall at any time use the fund belonging to any current year for any other purpose than paying the current expenses of that year, or who shall violate any of the provisions of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

In a brief web search, this author found no cases related to the issue of a county manager contract, although one case allowed the city of Albuquerque to cut by 2 percent payments to union-bargained personnel in order to balance the budget.

Edwards continued: "Going forward this process will give us a system for evaluating and considering contracts in the future. I give my apology for uncertainly within the county. I truly appreciate the hard work of the county manager and staff."

District 4 Commissioner Billy Billings echoed what Edwards had said. "Thank you, Charlene, for your work and your expertise. My thanks to the manager and staff."

"On another request, may I ask that you combine the work session into the regular session on Thursday, Jan. 9, so that I can spend time with my dad during his chemo treatment?" Billings said. The other commissioners nodded in agreement with the change.

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne had no report.

District 2 Commissioner Javier Salas wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Safe New Year. "We are coming up to the end of my first year as commissioner. It has been educational. I appreciate the board members for always being respectful even when we disagreed. I also apologize to Charlene for the length of time it took to complete this process. We were trying to get a better system in place."

District 1 Commissioner and Chairman Chris Ponce thanked the commissioners for their discussions and for listening to each other. "We have open minds and we listen. I also will apologize to the county manager. We are dealing with a lot of reasoning and trying to do what is right. Some things were thrown to us as a surprise. The Bateman Act required our research."

"From the beginning, it wasn't about your job and what you do," Ponce said to Webb, "but we had to do our research to do the best for the county. Having a county manager like you is the easy part; Trying to do our due diligence was harder. Hopefully we have given future commissioners a blueprint to follow. It came down to the position, not the person in the position. Thank you, Charlene staff, newspaper and everyone for being patient. Happy Holidays."

And the special meeting adjourned.