The Estancia Municipal School District (EMSD) Board of Education recently announced it voted to declare “Position 3” (occupied by Kendra Otis) “vacated”. The vote reportedly occurred during a special “virtual” meeting on September 26. However, a complaint filed alleging violations of the Open Meetings Act points to problems with the Board’s actions. The complaint cites evidence the meeting agenda was too vague and the public was excluded from participating in the meeting, both potential violations of statute. Speculation now grows surrounding the legality of the Board’s actions and whether those actions might lead to problems down the line.

Open Meetings Act Complaint

If substantiated by the Attorney General, or if a case is filed in District Court and a judge finds in favor of the complainant, the Board could be forced to vote once again to vacate the Kendra Otis’s position during a meeting open to the public.

We spoke with the complainant, Rob Wagner, who asserts he merely wants to see government “follow the law”. In an email to Board members, Mr. Wagner stated:

Please redo this Special Session at a time and place when the public can be present, with the correct procedures in place, in order to adhere to the Open Records Act.

The complaint was filed with the Attorney General who is charged with ensuring compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Responses to such complaints are notoriously slow, but once the complaint is reviewed it could be “substantiated”, or found to be valid. Should this occur, the prospect of invalidating any actions resulting from the September 26th vote could create serious ripple effects, possibly invalidating actions subsequent to the September 26th vote.

September 12 2022 Regular Meeting

A vote to declare “vacant” the position held by Kendra Otis was initially held on September 12, 2022. The action was not listed on the September 12th agenda, so the September 26th special meeting intended to correct the erroneous September 12th action.

September 26 2022 Special Meeting

While questions linger about the legality of the manner Position 3 was deemed vacant, another spot on the Board opened when a member reportedly moved out of the District. According to the EMSD website, that the vacancy was created by the member who held “Position 5”.

Complaint Filed Alleging Violations of the Open Meetings Act
January 2022 EMSD Board Members, featured left to right: Keith Sandy, Kelsey Collins, Lee Widner, Kendra Otis, and Randol Riley.

We spoke with Board Member Kelsey Collins about the vacancy. She reported first hearing about the vacancy from members of the public who saw the announcement on the EMSD website. Mrs. Collins advised that Position 5 belonged to Keith Sandy. The Board is expected to appoint new members to Positions 3 and 5 during the October 10th regular meeting.