July 31, 2015

Judge rules AG firings out of Personnel Board jurisdiction

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

A judge ruled today that New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas was justified in firing a group of employees when he took office.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. Courtesy photo.

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. Courtesy photo.

Administrative Law Judge Richard Levine wrote in his recommendation to the State Personnel Board that the appeals by the former employees could not be heard by the board. He recommended the board dismiss the appeals, as they are out of the board’s jurisdiction.

According to an Albuquerque Journal article, Balderas told a group of employees from the Attorney General’s Office their services would no longer be required and stated their last day  would be December 31, 2014. By February employees had filed appeals with the State Personnel board. After initially being dismissed, 19 of the original employees filed for a reconsideration.

Levine wrote that according to state statutes AGO employees can be hired outside the scope of the state Personnel Act.

In this case, we have a clear, specific statute that addressed the classified versus exempt status of the employees of the AGO. Since 1955, and unchanged since its date of enactment, this statute has authorized the Attorney General to hire employees directly, without regard to the State’s PA in any of its incarnations, at salaries to be fixed by the Attorney General, and who will hold office at the pleasure of the Attorney General. On the other hand, we have a wide-ranging PA that at least since 1963 has provided general coverage for the majority of state employees, and has directed this tribunal to hear appeals from those covered employees who have been demoted dismissed or suspended.

Levine went on to say that he reviewed  opinions by previous attorneys general on employment matters and ultimately ruled that the Personnel Board did not have jurisdiction and, “Such adjudication will have to come from some other court.”

The Personnel Board is scheduled to meet next month and is expected to make a decision regarding the former AGO employees.

Balderas said he expects the board to follow Levine’s recommendation.

“We are pleased with the recommended decision of Judge Levine, and we fully expect that the State Personnel Board will uphold this decision at their next meeting,” Balderas said in a statement.