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San Juan College Board, San Juan County Commission and San Juan Water Commission will also meet this week

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AZTEC — The Aztec City Commission will once again consider its contract for a city attorney after allegations that it violated the New Mexico Open Meetings Act on Sept. 10 when it awarded the contract to Unsicker Law Firm.

The allegations were first brought by Steve Murphy, an attorney that had also responded to the city’s request for proposals for legal service.

The City Commission will once again discuss the contract during a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at Aztec City Hall, 201 W. Chaco St.

Murphy alleged that the City Commission could not go into closed session to discuss the contracts because it had cited sole source procurement on the agenda, and there were more than one qualified responses to the request for proposals.

Murphy and his partner, Tyson Gobble, had been the evaluation committee's top pick.

More: Did Aztec City Commission violate the Open Meetings Act and state procurement code?

The Oct. 1 meeting agenda once again includes a closed session, however this time it cites an exception for discussing sealed proposals during the negotiation process.

The New Mexico Office of the Attorney General's Open Meetings Act compliance guide states that the exception is intended to parallel a portion of the New Mexico State Procurement Code. This section of the procurement code states, “the contents of any proposal shall not be disclosed so as to be available to competing offerors during the negotiation process.”

However, a draft contract with Murphy and Gobble was included in the agenda packet available online for the Sept. 10 meeting. The contract included the attorneys’ proposed terms.

Following the closed session, the agenda includes awarding the contract to one of the three firms that responded to the city’s request for proposals.

The City Commission did not meet in closed session the last time it awarded a contract for city attorney.

More: Aztec City Commission allegedly violated the New Mexico Open Meetings Act twice in one day

On Aug. 14, 2018, the City Commission awarded a contract to Risley Law Firm. The item was initially on the consent agenda, which includes multiple items that are voted on in a single motion. During that meeting, Commissioner Austin Randall asked for it to be removed from the consent agenda. Both Randall and Mayor Victor Snover asked questions about the contract prior to awarding it to Risley Law Firm.

The current city attorney, Nicci Unsicker, was working for Risley Law Firm and started representing the city through that contract.

Risley Law Firm was one of four firms that applied in 2018 to provide legal services to the city. However, this spring the law firm announced it would be ending its contract with the city. At that time, the city entered into a temporary contract with Unsicker Law Firm.

Other meetings 

The San Juan County Commission will meet at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the San Juan County Administration Building located at 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec. The County Commission agenda also includes a closed session to discuss acquisition of real estate for the County Road 5500 bridge. The county has been trying to acquire additional land or right of way to accommodate the replacement bridge.

More: The upcoming election could impact property taxes in Aztec, Bloomfield

The San Juan College Board will meet at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 in the college board room. The college is located at 4601 College Boulevard. The College Board agenda also includes a closed session. During the closed session, the College Board will discuss pending litigation. The agenda cites a lawsuit Four Corners Well Control filed against San Juan College in July 2018.

The San Juan Water Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Oct. 2 at the water commission building located at 7450 E. Main St. in Farmington. The commission will discuss its final cost allocation to the United States for the Animas-La Plata Project. The project involved building Lake Nighthorse to store water.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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