The state Attorney General’s office said today that no which way the vote goes with Edgewood’s upcoming special election, the current mayor and council will remain in office, under the current format, until Jan. 1, 2022.
An election will be held Aug. 24, by mail-in ballot only, on the question of whether Edgewood should change from its current mayor-council format to a commission-manager format. The special election is the result of a petition by Edgewood residents, including two town councilors.
The legal opinion is another twist in the road to the Aug. 24 special election.
The Attorney General’s office gave its legal opinion in potential changes to town government if a commission-manager format is adopted at the request of Rep. Matthew McQueen, who represents District 50 in the state Legislature.
“Specifically, you are seeking an analysis regarding the Town of Edgewood’s potential transition from a mayor-council form of government to a commission-manager form of government to be decided as part of a special election to be held on August 24, 2020,” wrote Assistant AG Miguel Lozano in a July 29 letter to McQueen. “Specifically, you are seeking an analysis regarding the effect on the current governing body if the majority of votes cast by the electorate are in favor of the commission-manager form of government, including when the newly elected commissioners will take office after the commission elections held on November 2, 2021. Additionally, you requested analysis regarding the interim responsibilities of the current mayor and town council during the potential transition period from the mayor-council to commission-manager forms of government.”
The AG’s office concluded that if the commission-manager format is approved by voters, that the first commissioners would be elected in the Nov. 2, 2021 general election, taking office Jan. 1, 2022. This echoes the conclusion of the Secretary of State earlier this year.
“Edgewood’s current governing body consists of duly elected officers, including a mayor and multiple city council members,” Lozano wrote. “Those individuals are only empowered to take actions explicitly or implicitly authorized by the Legislature for those specific offices. Therefore, except where the powers are identical and overlap, the members of the current governing body should not assume any powers granted to the future commission and manager. Except with respect to the duties arising from the transition to a commission-manager form of government, the current governing body should operate as normal until such time as the first commissioners have taken their offices.”
During this potential transition period, the current governing body should set up an appropriate administrative structure for the new commission to assume governing authority Jan. 1, 2022, the letter says. “This explicitly includes the districting of Edgewood into 5 separate commissioner districts, as well as any additional actions necessary to provide for the election of new commissioners, and the transition to a commission-manager form of government.”
The Aug. 24 special election has only one question on the ballot—whether the town should transition to a commission-manager form of government. It will be conducted entirely through mail-in ballots, as all special elections in the state are.
Ballots will be arriving to registered voters living within the town limits of Edgewood starting as early as this week. Ballots may be returned by mail, or taken to the county clerk’s office in Santa Fe in person, through Election Day, Aug. 24.
Members of Edgewood CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood) argued first, that voters would be able to install a new commission in this year’s general election if the change is approved by voters; the Secretary of State said commissioners would first be elected in November 2021, taking office Jan 1, 2022.
CORE has also argued that the commission-manager format would be immediately implemented if passed by voters Aug. 24, which is contradicted by this legal opinion from the Attorney General.