After appeal, SoS’ office has to pay big in open records case

An open records case related to unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud will cost the Secretary of State’s office $90,000. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported on the decision by the state Court of Appeals. Then-Secretary of State made national headlines when she alleged that 117 foreign nationals were registered to vote—and that 37 had actually illegally voted. Duran checked voter registration records against motor vehicle and Social Security databases; she sent 64,000 records with alleged irregularities to state police to investigate. Some questioned why Duran sent the files to the state police instead of to individual county clerks to check the voter rolls; experts said at the time that these were likely clerical errors or voters just using variations on their name (Tom instead of Thomas, for example).

Regent involved in UNM Hospital shake up deleted emails

Last month University of New Mexico Regent Rob Doughty shepherded to success a little-scrutinized plan to restructure the leadership and governance of the university’s Health Sciences Center. As one of the plan’s architects, Doughty also kept the plan secret — from the public, medical staff at UNM Hospital and at least two of Doughty’s fellow regents in the weeks before a March 14 vote that set the restructuring in stone. Now, the black hole of information surrounding how the plan came to be is growing murkier. New Mexico In Depth has learned that Doughty deleted emails he sent and received in the weeks leading up to the last-minute, controversial vote that changed oversight of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which has an annual budget of $1.9 billion. The change did away with a board composed of community members and regents and replaced it with a panel of three regents, who are political appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez.

Former APD records custodian files whistleblower suit

A former Albuquerque Police Department employee filed suit earlier this week claiming the department wrongfully fired him in retaliation for raising concerns that the department broke state law. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed by former records custodian Reynaldo Chavez, alleges APD fired Chavez after he alerted his superiors to violations of New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The suit names APD, the City of Albuquerque and a number of top officials as defendants. According to suit, while Chavez fielded records requests for APD, he was instructed to delay the return of certain records and was later fired when he objected. The suit also alleges that APD instructed Chavez “to overproduce materials to requesters,” requiring them “to spend time consuming hours sifting through boxes of irrelevant materials when no such responsive records were produced.”

The lawsuit describes a timeline that goes back six years and includes a number of high profile cases involving APD, local news media and members of the public.

AG wants more sunshine for medical pot program

New Mexico’s Attorney General is advocating for the state to disclose names of medical marijuana producers to the public. In a Dec. 31 letter written to state Medical Cannabis Program Patient Services Manager Andrea Sundberg, Attorney General Hector Balderas notes the Health Department’s proposal to disclose producers while keeping applications for personal production licenses confidential and pending non-profit producer applications private until the end of the application period. The Health Department recently agreed to allow the public to see medical marijuana producer licenses with those caveats. “We believe that this regulation not only exceeds the Department of Health’s statutory authority to promulgate rules, but also circumvents the mandates and intent of the IPRA,” Balderas writes.

APD facing another open records lawsuit over video

The City of Albuquerque is facing another open records lawsuit over lapel-cam footage of a January police shooting. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) announced the lawsuit on behalf of BurqueMedia.com, a website with an often adversarial relationship with the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department. The shooting took place on January 14 and left John O’Keefe dead. The department released lapel cam footage from one officer shortly after the shooting. Andrew Christopherson of BurqueMedia.com then told them he was seeking all the lapel camera footage, not just the footage from one officer. The city, according to the lawsuit, denied the open records request based on the law enforcement exception.

Attorney: Video shows self-defense claim in shooting ‘not legitimate’

A team of legal representatives for the mother of a slain Albuquerque teen offered their interpretation of recently released cell phone video of the deadly shooting in March. The video captures parts of the Los Altos Skate Park shooting that killed 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis and wounded six others. Albuquerque police released the previously withheld video last week after losing a lawsuit in which a judge found the city in violation of the state’s public records law. Munah Green, the mother of Lewis, filed the lawsuit in July after requesting documents related to the shooting that police had withheld since April. Police have stated that Lewis fired a gun that night and was killed in self defense.

Judge: APD must release video of Jaquise Lewis shooting

An Albuquerque District Judge has ordered city police to immediately release a cell phone video from a March 22 shooting that left a teen dead and six wounded. The video, which the mother of slain Jaquise Lewis and others who’ve seen it said shows Lewis was pursued and shot as he was running away, has been the focus of contention since the summer. Related Story: APD released copies of the video on Friday. You can view them here. Lewis’ mother, Munah Green, sued the Albuquerque Police Department in July for release of the video and other records from the shooting.

Attorneys make final arguments in APD public records trial

The City of Albuquerque is using the state Inspection of Public Records Act to only its own end, according to closing arguments in the trial of a lawsuit alleging the city violated the law. Ahmad Assed, the attorney for Munah Green, contends in written arguments submitted this week that under the city’s interpretation, “IPRA becomes meaningless and subject to the pleasure and whim of governmental power.”

“Instead of IPRA being a public check and balance, or a statutory tool by which the public can extract the greatest possible information about governmental actions, IPRA can be thwarted, eviscerated and otherwise rendered meaningless by two words: ‘on-going investigation,’” Assed writes. Green is the mother of Jaquise Lewis, the 17-year-old who died from gunshots in the March shooting at Los Altos Skate Park. The shooting left six others wounded, including one who was paralyzed. Albuquerque police have said that Lewis had a gun, fired at people that night and was killed in self defense.

Court date set for public records suit over Los Altos shooting

A public records lawsuit filed by the mother of a slain Albuquerque teen will head to trial later this month. Albuquerque city attorneys were a no-show today for a court meeting to determine the scheduling of a trial relating a March 22 shooting that left 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis dead. Munah Green, Lewis’s mother, is suing the city for allegedly withholding public records related to the shooting. Albuquerque District Judge Victor Lopez scheduled a hearing for the lawsuit on Nov. 20 at 10:30 am.

State ordered to pay legal fees to union in open records case

A Santa Fe district judge’s ruling on Wednesday afternoon awarded an education group additional money in a lawsuit against the state’s Public Education Department. The ruling comes after First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton awarded damages to National Education Association New Mexico (NEA-NM) after the group accused PED of violating the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA. In court on Wednesday, Singleton awarded the group money for legal fees, totaling $14,071.31 according to a press release by NEA-NM following the decision. In a press release sent out before the hearing, NEA said the judge’s determination would set a precedent on who is actually able to sue over public records violations. “Is our government meant to be only ‘open’ for the wealthy who can afford to pay their own legal expenses to obtain Court rulings against agencies who fail to comply with the Inspection of Public Records Act?” NEA-NM President Betty Paterson asked.