Without a public vote, Las Cruces announces new city manager

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The City of Las Cruces made a surprise announcement in a news release Monday afternoon that Stuart Ed had been selected to be the new city manager.

Stuart Ed

Courtesy photo

Stuart Ed, who the City of Las Cruces announced today has been selected to be its next city manager.

There’s been no public vote of the City Council to select Ed. The N.M. Foundation for Open Government (FOG) says if such a decision was made behind closed doors it violates the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Contrary to what the city’s news release stated, some councilors say a decision hasn’t yet been finalized.

Councilors and the mayor conducted a second round of interviews with Ed and another candidate Monday morning in a closed session. Susan Boe, FOG’s executive director, said councilors should have taken a public vote after the meeting if they’d reached consensus.

“Oh no, that should have been done in public. Absolutely in that case,” Boe said.

Without a public vote, people don’t know whether the decision was unanimous or split and weren’t given an opportunity to hear councilors’ reasoning for their decision.

The city’s news release states that councilors are scheduled to “consider a formal resolution selecting Ed as city manager” at their Oct. 3 meeting. “Ed’s start date is subject to the terms and conditions of an employment contract to be negotiated,” the news release states.

Ed was most recently president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of El Paso, a job he left in July. Before that he worked for the City of El Paso for about nine years. Ed received his master’s in public administration from New Mexico State University in 2002. You can view his résumé here.

The other candidate who had a second interview Monday was Dan Biles, deputy county manager of infrastructure for Jefferson County, Ala.

“The City Council and I are very pleased and confident with the selection of Stuart Ed as the new city manager,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said in the city’s news release, which states that the mayor was “speaking for the City Council.”

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“He brings a wealth of diverse professional experience that will help Las Cruces continue in the positive direction the Council has established,” Miyagishima said of Ed. “We believe he is a good fit for the Council and the community, and we look forward to working with him.”

In a text exchange after the news release went out, Miyagishima asked that questions from NMPolitics.net about the Open Meetings Act be sent to him by email.

The city’s mayor pro tem, Councilor Gregory Z. Smith, also declined to discuss the Open Meetings Act with NMPolitics.net. But he praised Ed.

“Stuart Ed is a very strong candidate and we will be very well served if he accepts the position,” Smith said.

Later, Smith posted on Facebook that the Council was “likely” to vote to hire Ed but that a formal vote had not been taken.

“A news release has gone out with a quote from our mayor which runs counter to what the council approved in today’s closed meeting,” Smith wrote on Facebook. “The release says that Suart Ed has been ‘selected’ as the next city manager, and that implies that the council voted… which would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act. There was clear support for Mr. Ed (pronounced ‘eed’) in that meeting, but the formal vote will be at the October 3 meeting.”

Councilor Gil Sorg was quoted by the Las Cruces Sun-News as saying something similar.

“It was a consensus more or less,” Sorg was quoted as saying. “But it’s not official until it’s done in open session.”

This isn’t the first controversy surrounding Las Cruces’ city manager search. Though the city has released 13 applications for the job, it has withheld dozens of others from the public.

State law makes applications for high-profile government jobs like city manager public. But the city contends that applications its contract search firm hasn’t turned over to the city aren’t public records. NMPolitics.net has sued, seeking release of all applications. The case is pending.

And last week, NMPolitics.net reported that Miyagishima had caused confusion by saying publicly that the City Council had selected four finalists for the job when, in fact, it had only selected two — Ed and Biles.

Miyagishima later said he wanted the Council to also consider Las Cruces’ two assistant city managers — Daniel Avila and David Dollahon, who is currently serving as interim city manager, for the job. But Avila said he didn’t want it. Dollahon, who applied months ago, said he was still interested in the job.

The Council never indicated that it had considered either assistant city manager a finalist. Some councilors told NMPolitics.net that only Ed and Biles were finalists.

This article has been updated to quote Smith’s Facebook post and Sorg’s comments to the Sun-News. A prior version of this posting incorrectly stated that Ed is currently president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of El Paso.

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