City Councilor Rob McWilliams resigned from his Ward IV position on Roswell City Council only minutes before the petition for removal would have been heard in district court on Monday afternoon.
Mayor Del Jurney and the city attorney, Barbara Patterson, filed the petition on Dec. 21, less than a week after officials learned that McWilliams made recordings during closed sessions. Patterson said during her opening statement that resolution had been reached where McWilliams agreed to return any recordings that pertain to the city of Roswell and abide by a permanent injunction that prevents him from disclosure of information learned in closed meetings he attended as a council member.
Patterson also presented an order for dismissal of the petition that would have removed him from his elective office. â€œHe resigned which makes the point moot,â€ she said. The dismissal was made without prejudice which may allow for refiling of a case in the future. District Court Judge Freddie Romero asked McWilliams if he had read the injunction and understood its contents. He said he had.
The alleged incidents occurred on Sept. 16, Oct. 14, Oct. 25, and Nov. 11. According to the Dec. 21 petition, items covered during these closed sessions pertained to personnel matters and on-going litigation, which New Mexico law recognizes a governing body may need to discuss in confidence. The petition further stated that McWilliams â€œhad no legal right, authority or warrant of law to release audio recordings from closed meeting sessions of the Roswell City Council.â€
As the hearing drew to a close, Patterson handed McWilliams the injunction and the motion of dismissal and then offered her hand in a conciliatory gesture. He refused to shake it. In a prepared statement, McWilliams said, â€œThose in government who hold the golden ticket will always oppress those who donâ€™t.â€ â€œIt was a difficult position for the city,â€ Jurney said after the hearing. He explained that there were good reasons for confidentiality in government. â€œItâ€™s not one where we felt we had flexibility.â€ He described himself as sad at the loss of the council member.
â€œMcWilliams brought a lot to council,â€ Jurney said. The mayor was not ready to discuss what will become of the empty seat, but he said, â€œThe mayor has the prerogative to appoint someone to fill the seat until it comes up for election in March 2012.â€