Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board Vice President and District 6 Trustee Leo Marquez drew attention to the Board’s inconsistent communication policy with comments he made during the Nov. 17 regular Board meeting.
In a response to statements made during public comment, he said Board President and District 5 Trustee Nick Naranjo is the only person who can speak on behalf of the Board members and he will only speak to the media when it concerns issues specific to his district.
“Everything is completely under the policy, as far as the media,” Marquez said. “The president is the one who is supposed to speak for us, unless it is directed at our district, so if there is something in my district that you want to talk about with me, you are more than welcome to. Any other comments, I respect that fact that I have a president, and it goes through there.”
Marquez did not return a call, by presstime, inquiring about his comments made during the meeting. Instead, Co-op interim general manager and Chief Financial Officer Donna Trujillo returned the call on his behalf.
Trujillo said Marquez asked her to say that he made his statement based on information included in Board Policy 103, Section 8, which states, “The Chairman of the Board of Trustees shall be the spokesperson for the Board, except where otherwise previously directed by the Board.”
Marquez did not respond to a follow-up question, relayed through Trujillo, by presstime, asking how he came to interpret this policy to mean that he is not allowed to speak to the media.
Naranjo also did not return calls, by presstime, inquiring about the Board’s media policies, nor did he relay a message through Trujillo.
Although the Board policy states the president is the spokesperson, nowhere in the Board’s 48 policies does it state that trustees are not allowed to speak to the press.
The policy Marquez cited as the reason he is unable to return his own messages was discussed during the July 28 Board meeting, the first presided over by Naranjo in his capacity as Board president.
Co-op Attorney Nancy Long, of Santa Fe-based law firm Long, Komer and Associates, gave a presentation about Board policies concerning trustee duties and liabilities.
Her interpretation of Policy 103 did not align with the one given by Marquez.
According to the July 28 Board meeting minutes posted on the Co-op’s website, Long “recommended any questions from the public or the press be directed to the general manager, especially about sensitive matters.”
She did not, during her presentation, say that Board members are not allowed to speak with the media.
Long also discussed Board Policy 107 she said confidential information does not include matters that have been publicly discussed.
District 4 Trustee David Salazar, who has been on the Board for more than 40 years, said this policy has never before been interpreted to mean a Board member cannot speak to the press.
“It has always been a custom for us Board members to say what we want,” he said. “We can. Except for things discussed in executive session. That is confidential information that needs to stay in the Board (room).”
Salazar said regardless of Marquez’s interpretation, he will continue to share his opinion.
District 1 Trustee Dolores McCoy also said this was the first time she has heard this interpretation of the policy.
“I’ve never heard we weren’t allowed to talk to the media,” she said. “There is nothing in the policy, as far as I know.”
Marquez’s comments and actions come during a time of heightened scrutiny of the Board’s transparency practices, as they hire a new general manager.
During the Nov. 17 meeting, Naranjo stated they will not share the names of the 27 applicants with the public.
The lack of transparency does not only extend to the media and Co-op customers and members, but also to other Board members.
Naranjo gave no definitive answer as to when, or if, all 11 Board members will have the opportunity to look at the general manager applications.
McCoy said she was unaware prior to the Nov. 17 meeting, that a three-person Review Committee existed and will select an unknown number of the applicants for the full Board to review.
“They never said anything about that,” she said about Naranjo and other members of the Executive Committee. “I didn’t know there was a hiring or selecting committee until I saw it in the paper.”
It did not come as a surprise that she was kept out of the loop.
“(Other Board members) have had all kinds of meetings without letting us know,” she said.
Executive Committee members, District 3 Trustee and Treasurer Johnny Jaramillo, District 4 Trustee and Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Lucas Cordova, and District 5 Trustee and Secretary Harold Trujillo, did not return phone calls, by presstime, inquiring about meetings held without the knowledge of the full Board.
Since June, Jaramillo has not returned more than a dozen phone calls requesting comment on a myriad of topics, ranging from the Co-op elections to the general manager position.