Rio Grande Foundation to Continue IPRA Lawsuit Against Bernalillo County

(Albuquerque, NM) – The Bernalillo County Commission passed its paid time off ordinance recently, but the Rio Grande Foundation is still crying foul over a lack of transparency and openness when it comes to various communications both between and to the Commissioners in the weeks and months leading up to the vote.

Specifically, the Rio Grande Foundation requested text messages, emails sent to the commissioners from concerned citizens, and emails sent between commissioners and other commissioners and representatives of various interest groups including those who helped draft the ordinance itself.

Unfortunately, according to the Rio Grande Foundation, after a thorough review of the documents provided by the County, it is clear that large portions of our request remain unfulfilled. The Rio Grande Foundation is not alone in having problems with Bernalillo County responding to IPRA requests. In fact, Attorney General Hector Balderas recently sent a letter to the County admonishing them for charging unlawful fees under New Mexico’s IPRA law.

In the Rio Grande Foundation’s case, numerous public records are being illegally withheld from the public. The following records were requested, with an incomplete response from the County:

Text messages: the Foundation has not received a single text message relating to either sick leave or paid time off. Texts messages were specifically part of the Foundation’s request to the County Commission. This portion of the request was improperly denied.

Private Gmail: the Foundation is missing records that concerned public business sent by Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins using a private gmail account. Using private Gmail isn’t against the law, but there are public records on her private Gmail that fall within the scope of the request that were not provided.

Emails from the public: The Rio Grande Foundation and numerous other groups on both sides of the issue coordinated email campaigns encouraging commissioners to either oppose or support the ordinance. A tiny fraction number of emails were sent, but emails sent by specific people (including Mr. Gessing himself) were not released in the records request. Few such emails were released on either side.

Concluded, Foundation president Paul Gessing, “We recognize that we lost on paid time off. As the saying goes, ‘elections matter.’ But following the law and open government matter also. And, there is still a lot of relevant information contained in those unreleased, but nonetheless legally ‘public’ records. The Rio Grande Foundation is not giving up in its efforts to obtain those records because we think the public still has a right to know who contacted the Commission and in what numbers on each side and the role various interest groups played in pushing this mandate.”