Acequias are political subdivisions of the state, and as such, state law requires that they make decisions, hold meetings, and keep records in an open and transparent manner. With this said, Acequias should conduct their meetings in such a way that they are open to discussion, debate, and provide for decisions to be made in an orderly manner. The Office of the Attorney General has a manual dedicated entirely to compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Also, the NMAA has a template OMA resolution that is tailored to acequias. Here are some tips to conduct open and efficient meetings.
1. It is important that the Acequia adopts an open meetings act resolution that requires:
- public business to be held in full public view
- actions of public bodies be taken openly
- a quorum present in order to take action
- reasonable notice to be given to the public
2. Give reasonable notice of meetings. NMAA recommends the following guidelines based on the Attorney General handbook and state law:
- 10 days notice for regular membership meetings
- 3 days for special membership or commission meetings
- Whatever your bylaws or OMA resolution say if they exceed the above.
- Please contact NMAA for a template OMA resolution
3. Meeting Agenda and Minutes
- Meeting notices shall include the agenda or indicate how a copy of the agenda can be obtained and the agenda shall be made available to the public at least 72 hours in advance of meetings
- Take minutes at meetings. Include the date, time, and place of the meeting. If it is a membership meeting, it is also a good practice to include a list of the members-parciantes in good standing and voting at the meeting. Minutes should generally record a summary of items discussed and a record of any votes taken. If it is a commissioner meeting, the minutes should include the names of commissioners in attendance and a record of any decisions and votes taken that show how each commissioner voted.
- The acequia may recess and reconvene a meeting or close part of a meeting for executive session in certain limited situations. (see more details in NMAA Governance Handbook).
4. Things to keep in mind:
- Develop an agenda that clearly states items for discussion and/or action. Only items on the agenda as action items can be the subject to a decision through a vote at the meeting.
- Acequias generally follow some type of parliamentary procedure. The president or chair presides over the meeting. All discussion and motions should go through the president. NMAA can provide guidance on the use of parliamentary procedures for your meetings.
- Use time wisely. An important aspect of running effective meetings is insisting that everyone respects the time allotted. Start the meeting on time, do not spend time recapping for latecomers, and, when you can, finish on time. Whatever can be done outside the meeting time should be including circulating reports, bylaws, or information for parciantes to read beforehand, and assigning smaller group meetings to discuss issues relevant beforehand.
- A meeting should be an opportunity for open participation from your members. However, it is up the chair or President to manage a meeting to move through the agenda. If certain people are dominating the conversation, the President has the discretion to summarize what has been said and moving on to ask others for their ideas.
- At the end of each agenda item, the chair or President should summarize what was said, ask people to confirm that that's a fair summary, and ensure the summary is recorded in the minutes. If a vote of the membership was taken, record the decision made. If in a commission meeting and a vote was taken, record the vote of each commissioner and the decision made.
- Watch body language and make adjustments as necessary. Maybe you need a break, or you need to break the monotony of one speaker by suggesting that the others voice their opinions. Bring snacks and drinks if you anticipate a long meeting
*If you need any more tips or suggestions please feel free to contact the NM Acequia Association for more advice or fact sheets at (505) 995-9644*