Note: The complete transcript for this meeting is not yet available. In the interim, specific statements made at this meeting will be posted on this site and answered by Neil and Cindy Girrard. Excerpts from the transcript are in normal type - comments in response by Neil and Cindy Girrard are in blue.
Stone: Yes, maam, my name’s Preston Stone, chairman of the Lincoln County Commission. I was in Santa Fe in meetings and County Manager Nita Taylor contacted me and said there was an issue with the Lincoln County Preservation Board and a member in this community. And she and I discussed it and I said well, then the best thing we need to do is put this on the agenda. When I came home, after further discussion with the County Manager Nita Taylor, I contacted Commissioner Allen and I asked her to bring me up to date on this. She explained the situation completely up to date and myself and answered the questions that I had. And my questions to Commissioner Allen bein’ this is her district [garbled] and she proposed for this particular situation and she said, “I would rather the Preservation Board be able to handle their own business and their issues.” And I said, “Agreed. I will request this be removed from the County Commission agenda” which County Manager and I visited, and we did. So, in agreement with the Lincoln County Commission and the County Manager and the County Attorney, elected to turn this issue over to the Lincoln County Preservation Board so that, so to speak, in my terminology, you can iron out your own laundry in your own house. So…
Someone: Thank you.
Stone: …it’s up to ya’ll. Our concern, as Lincoln County Commission, that the continuity of this community and the Lincoln County Preservation Board maintains its strength.
Sounds good except it’s illegal, underhanded and immoral. Let’s take it one line at a time.
Stone: Yes, maam, my name’s Preston Stone, chairman of the Lincoln County Commission. I was in Santa Fe in meetings and County Manager Nita Taylor contacted me and said there was an issue with the Lincoln County Preservation Board and a member in this community. And she and I discussed it and I said well, then the best thing we need to do is put this on the agenda.
Look at this. Even Preston Stone’s initial reaction, like all other reasonable, rational and sane people who hear what Smith said, was to recognize the seriousness of all this. So, he rightly had the matter put on the County Commission agenda.
The county commission is the only entity with the authority to remove Smith which is why we sent our request to the county manager (see our initial letter here) asking for his removal. When Stone and Taylor (see below) removed the item from the agenda and sent it back to the board, they basically said they had already decided the matter did not warrant his removal. And this without any public discussion! Sure looks like a cover up to us! How any public official in any housing capacity can be allowed to freely toss around implications of burning out those he personally deems offensive is completely incomprehensible to all the reasonable, rational and sane people who hear what Smith said.
Now, watch what happens next.
Stone: When I came home, after further discussion with the County Manager Nita Taylor, I contacted Commissioner Allen and I asked her to bring me up to date on this. She explained the situation completely up to date and myself and answered the questions that I had.
The Open Meetings Act says, “All meetings of any public body except the legislature and the courts shall be public meetings, and all persons desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings.” (NMSA 1978, Section 10-15-1 A) It sure looks to us that this communication between Allen and Stone is a flagrant violation of the standards and intent of the Open Meetings Act. The matter had already been placed on the County Commission agenda. With ex parte communications, Allen and Stone discuss the particulars of this issue. Both Stone and Allen should be required to resign if this is all the care they have for justice and truth.
Allen’s words are also one-sided evidence and most likely the same kind of deception she used at the July 2018 LHPB meeting. Gossip and slander have long been accepted as valid “evidence” from the board members. What lies did Allen dredge up from the Lincoln gossip and slander mill to convince Stone that we weren’t entitled to a fair hearing before the county commission? That Stone is deceived by Allen’s use of Lincoln’s gossip and slander about us would also explain why Stone says the board needs to remain “strong”!
Still further, Allen is personally involved in this mess in spite of what she told the LHPB board and the people at the July LHPB meeting. Her husband, Rory McMinn, is L.M. Smith’s lifelong friend. (see our rebuttal of McMinn’s statements here and of Allen’s statements here.) At the June LHPB meeting, she and board member Winston Moore had an emotional confrontation over this issue. Whatever explanation Allen gave Stone, it did not bring him completely up to date – that would have required him talking to us. No one seems willing to do that but they’ll sure talk to everyone else! This is gossip and slander, not gathering evidence. This is jicky politics.
Stone: And my questions to Commissioner Allen bein’ this is her district [garbled] and she proposed for this particular situation and she said, “I would rather the Preservation Board be able to handle their own business and their issues.”
Of course, Commissioner Allen would rather the board take care of it because then there would be no possibility that the whole truth would be told, that her husband’s friend (L.M. Smith, historical board chairman) would be protected from the legal trouble his implied threats have gotten him into and that there would be no justice for us and the historical district. And Smith would get away with threatening a “troublesome” Zone B resident with arson. That will certainly make it easier to wield power over the historical district!
By sending this issue back to the board, the board is only capable of asking Smith to resign or of depriving him of his status as chairman. Hardly a penalty to fit the crime! As for procedure, neither Allen nor Stone provide any real guidance about how to do this – only do it however you like and be strong. Smith certainly wasn’t going to be in favor of his removal. Board member Katherine Marsh’s statement, “I’m with Becky [Borowski] that I don’t think it warrants the removal of Mr. Smith” (July 2018 LHPB meeting, made after no evidence of what Smith actually said was presented at the meeting) is indicative of the pre-existent bias that the board operates under. Marsh and Borowski would likely think otherwise if Smith had made these statements about their property and business!
Stone: And I said, “Agreed. I will request this be removed from the County Commission agenda” which County Manager and I visited, and we did.
Commissioners Stone and Allen agreed and then took action. There is no quorum of commissioners present, there has been no public meeting or public discussion of this issue – this is Stone and Allen operating on their own. Stone gives no indication here that the other three commissioners were even informed or involved in any discussion or decision. And from whom is Stone going to request the removal of the item from the agenda? From what we’ve been told, a commissioner had to sponsor the item – if Stone was the sponsoring commissioner, why didn’t he just withdraw his sponsorship? This fiasco has all been conducted behind closed doors and, other than one unscheduled discussion Neil Girrard had with Nita Taylor at her office (she never returned any of our calls or emails), the communications sure seem to have all been one-sided and behind closed doors. The procedures the county seems to operate under regarding this kind of complaint need to be re-examined as they seem non-existent and made up on the fly!
This is precisely what the Open Meetings Act prohibits! This was always a county commission issue and always should have remained so. In fact, from what we can see in the Open Meetings Act, the issue was required to be dealt with by the commission. The jicky politics to get this matter back before the historical board is merely indicative of the disregard for due process and proper procedure as is also indicated by everyone’s failure to mention, let alone follow even Roberts Rules of Order! Allen’s ignorance (“You can [provide a “recommendation” to the commissioners] however you choose as far as that goes. I don’t know how you should do this.”) should have been a clue to Stone that this was not about following laws but maintaining personal power. Stone should have simply stood on his first impression and kept this issue as a county commission matter and told Allen it was just as inappropriate to send this back to the board as it was for Smith to issue his implied threats.
Stone: So, in agreement with the Lincoln County Commission
How can Stone and Allen be “in agreement with the Lincoln County Commission” when the Commission had not yet met or discussed this matter in public? If there is any “agreement with the Lincoln County Commission,” then this statement certainly seems to us to be evidence of ex parte communications between the commissioners.
Stone: …and the County Manager and the County Attorney,
So, the County Manager and the County Attorney are in on this too. How did both the County Manager and the County Attorney both miss the fact that Stone’s and Allen’s agreement was illegal?
Stone: …elected to turn this issue over to the Lincoln County Preservation Board so that, so to speak, in my terminology, you can iron out your own laundry in your own house. So…
[Someone]: Thank you.
Stone: …it’s up to ya’ll.
Uh, the county is our house too, Mr. Stone. The reason we went to the county commission was because we knew it was useless to present this matter to the board. Even the commission agenda clearly places all questions of board appointments and removals in the hands of the county. The 2004 revisions to the historical ordinance were specifically all about placing all the enforcement power of the ordinance in the hands of the county. It has long been recognized by many throughout the historical district and the county that the historical board is often overboard, even insane, about its actions and decisions. If the commissioners are now sanctioning the board’s insanities, the homeowners of the district need a new form of protection.
Who cares that Smith is threatening to burn down a Zone B resident’s house? Who cares about truth and justice and due process? Not anyone at the county that we can see. It is difficult to determine exactly what motivates these people, but truth, justice and loyalty to the due process of law that has kept America alive and as well as she has been are entirely absent. There was time for the commissioners to talk with each other (apart from a public meeting) and for someone to tell people from a thousand miles away what was going on, but no one would bother to talk to us about anything. (see our unanswered July 11 letter here.)
Stone: Our concern, as Lincoln County Commission, that the continuity of this community and the Lincoln County Preservation Board maintains its strength.
Of course, bullies must be strong. It is equally certain, however, that if someone were threatening to burn down Stone’s or Allen’s or Smith’s house, there would be an entirely different reaction from the “community.” There’s a whole lot of hypocrisy on display in this meeting!
Smith’s words reek of his bullying, vigilante attitude and the county commission now seems willing to back up Smith’s departure from the proper channels of pursuing any code enforcement and seem to support his expression of his vigilante attitudes, even as chairman of the board. (see our rebuttal of Smith’s original words in January 2018 here.) Stone states that he was brought “up to date” by Allen but it is clear that he was not given all the facts as neither the board nor the county can even produce any evidence whatsoever that there are any real, substantive issues regarding our home. All this posturing is merely subterfuge to distract everyone from the real issue – Smith’s implied threats to burn down our home.
Allen’s statements at this meeting are entirely deceptive and even ignorant. (see our rebuttal of her nonsense here) It is also to be noted that Preston Stone had been sent a copy of our 7/16 letter to Nita Taylor and the historical board but he didn’t even bother to mention that nor did it even show up in the correspondence section. This is called suppression of evidence. (see our letter here.) The whole meeting is nothing but obstruction of justice. It is a cover up of L.M. Smith’s implied threats to burn down our home.
It is precisely this meeting and the callous indifference of the county commissioners that has caused us to join the Zone B Homeowners League and seek some kind of protection from these public officials who are so willing to bend and even break laws just so they can keep themselves and their pals in power, even the petty power of the Lincoln Historical Preservation Board. This is not what America is supposed to be!