New Mexico Commission Seeks New Insurance Superintendent

September 29, 2006

New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission has chosen a finalist to replace former Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna, but regulators won’t say who that person is.

Following a closed meeting Tuesday, the PRC announced it has authorized its chief of staff to negotiate with the person on issues such as salary and job responsibility.

PRC Counsel Carol Rising said state law allows discussions about personnel matters to be held behind closed doors as long as no formal action is taken. She argued that authorizing the chief of staff to approach someone is different from making a final appointment.

But Bob Johnson, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said the PRC appears to be breaking the law.

“When they authorize the chief of staff to negotiate with a particular person they are running into a real problem,” Johnson said.

He pointed to a case in Carlsbad in which a judge ruled that such names and resumes for public jobs are public record and have to be divulged.

PRC Chairman Ben Lujan said the commission is prepared to make a formal appointment after its regular meeting next Tuesday if the finalist accepts the proposal.

Serna retired in May after being suspended by the commission over conflict-of-interest issues. At the time, he was making more than $91,000 a year.

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