(CN) – New Mexico’s governor does not have the authority to remove members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, the state’s highest court ruled.
Gov. Susan Martinez’s fired the entire Public Employee Labor Relations Board on March 1, prompting a lawsuit by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The governor appoints one member of the board to represent labor, another to represent public employees and a third who is recommended by the first two.
Labor representative John Boyd’s term was supposed to expire at the end of this month, while employer representative Martin Dominguez was supposed to serve until June 30, 2012.
The third member, Duff Westbrook, was serving on the board until he could be replaced, as his term expired on June 30 of last year.
The New Mexico Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, issued a writ of mandamus to reinstate Boyd and Westbrook. The union did seek Dominguez’s reinstatement.
“Because the state is a public employer subject to the provisions of the Act, the PELRB will adjudicate disputes involving the governor,” Justice Edward Chavez wrote for the court, abbreviating the board’s name. “According to petitioners, 17 cases currently pending before the PELRB directly involve the Governor’s executive department, a contention unchallenged by the Governor.”
In taking the union’s side, the justices cited the guidelines the governor must follow in appointing members of the board to illustrate that she does not have the unilateral power to remove its members.
“The removal of the board member selected by the unions casts a pall over the operations of the PELRB and evinces a willingness to interfere with the unions’ right to designate a board member of their choice,” Chavez wrote.