Agency allows public comment, but blocks criticism of commissioners
That is our question for the five-member state Public Regulation Commission. It sets aside time at each meeting to allow people to comment on the agency, provided that nobody criticizes a commissioner.
As a former PRC employee named Martin de la Garza, left, spoke this week, agency lawyer Bob Parker stopped his commentary. De la Garza was criticizing Commissioners Ben Hall and Patrick Lyons, below. Parker said de la Garza's opinions on these elected officials were out of bounds.
In one breath, PRC members say they are magnanimous because they permit public comment. In the next, they want to silence a detractor.
Instead of continuing this farce, the PRC should do away with the public comment sessions. It appears the PRC only wants bouquets. De la Garza, the man delivering brickbats, is someone they have to see but do not want to hear.
Former PRC members disliked de la Garza so much that they banned him from the public building where the agency is headquartered. De la Garza then obtained a court order to protect his right to attend the PRC's open meetings.Public comment sessions allowed him to critique the agency and commissioners in front of an audience. Now he and anybody else who downgrades a commissioner will wear a muzzle.
De la Garza does not respect the commissioners, but that is not required for him to have an opinion. In turn, Lyons and Hall do not care for de la Garza. Lyons once put his hands on de la Garza after de la Garza approached the section where PRC members sit.
Truth is, we do not like listening to de la Garza, but the PRC's silencing of him is more offensive than anything he could ever say.
Yes, de la Garza is full of himself. On various occasions when telling off PRC members, he has claimed to represent the people of New Mexico, PRC employees "and God." He speaks only for himself, but that is enough. He ought to be heard if the PRC is going to claim that it accepts public comment.
PRC members make $90,000 a year. If they are not thick-skinned enough to hear out de la Garza, they should return the money to taxpayers.