The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/UzrNns) that the commission was scheduled to vote to renew the charters of North Valley Academy and Horizon Academy West, but the vote was held on Dec. 13 instead.
The decision to take the votes a day before they were scheduled was made with the approval of an assistant attorney general.
Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the agency can't comment extensively because of threatened litigation, but issued a written statement. "We maintain that after careful consideration, we determined that the right thing to do was to cure the alleged violation at the next board meeting," he said.
According to minutes from the Dec. 13 meeting, then-commission chairman Andrew Garrison asked Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds, who serves as counsel for the commission, whether the commission could legally move up the two votes.
Garrison asked what would happen if a member of the public showed up Friday, wishing to comment on the charters that had already been renewed. Reynolds told him there would be no legal problem. According to the minutes, Reynolds said: "Mr. Chair, I have absolutely no problem with that. That much is clear.
Martin Esquivel, an Albuquerque school board member and attorney who specializes in open government issues, said the commission violated the state Open Meetings Act and that holding a re-vote is not enough.
Esquivel became involved in the case because he represents a former head of North Valley Academy, and he had hoped to comment on the charter's renewal.
Esquivel said that the attorney general's office, which is charged with enforcing the Open Meetings Act, should make it clear the act was violated, and the commission should have to start from scratch in considering the two charter renewals.
Esquivel said that, according to the Open Meetings Act, public boards have 15 days to "cure" or fix a violation. Otherwise, actions become null and void.
"You can't just say, 'Oh we screwed up, we'll fix it next time,' " he said. "There has to be some declaration that what happened at the last meeting is null and void."
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com