The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board is taking the City of Albuquerque to court per a lawsuit filed on Dec. 5.
In November, the Albuquerque City Council abolished and recreated the Air Quality Control Board which removed city-appointed members and suspended the board's actions till Feb. 1. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, the Board's attorney, is calling the legality of these actions into question.
The hearing is set for Jan. 25. If the Board is successful, there will be a pause on the City Council’s changes and the terminated Board members will be reinstated until the court makes a final judgment on the legality of the legislation. If the Board loses the lawsuit, the City’s changes would go into effect, according to Sedillo Lopez.
“I want to put a pause on the enforcement of the resolution and the ordinance until the legality of them can be sorted out,” Sedillo Lopez said.
While making substantial changes, The Albuquerque City Council acted without the approval of the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners. Given the Board’s position with both Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, this could violate a joint powers agreement, the filing Sedillo Lopez wrote states.
Attorneys W. Ken Martinez, Marah deMeule and Valerie Joe will be working in conjunction with the Air Quality Control Board’s attorney, however they will focus on the City’s potential overreach and not the termination of Board members, Sedillo Lopez said.
“Our contention at the County is that neither the County nor the City can unilaterally change the Board,” County Commissioner Eric Olivas said. “We have to be in agreement because the authority was specifically delegated to the Joint Powers, not to one or the other.”
The filing also states that each Board member has a right to complete their term and can only be removed with a pattern of absences, which no current members meet.
The resolution creating the moratorium also violates the existing ordinance that requires the City to provide staff for the Board, which makes the resolution void, Sedillo Lopez said.
“A resolution is an internal policy document and doesn't have the force of law,” Sedillo Lopez said. “The resolution violated an existing ordinance, because there is an ordinance that provides that the City will provide support to the Board.”
The filing will be heard at court at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25 at the Albuquerque District Court.
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“It violates state law, is an overreach by the City Council and it's an overreach that violated (the) agreement it had with the County,” Sedilla Lopez said.
Nate Bernard is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo
Editors note 1/22/23: In the print version of this story, the second reference of the hearing date was incorrectly reported as Jan. 21. It has since been corrected digitally.