I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
State agency won’t release GRIPgate records
Though at least two other state agencies have publicly released similar documents, the New Mexico Finance Authority is refusing to hand over subpoenas it has been issued in the federal investigation into allegations of pay-to-play in the Richardson administration.
The finance authority also refuses to release the documents sought by such subpoenas.
NMI sought the records in two separate requests made under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The first, a narrow request, sought only subpoenas that have been issued in the federal investigation. The second, broader request sought all subpoenas related to any federal investigation received by the finance authority, and all documents requested in those subpoenas.
“The New Mexico Finance Authority is denying your request, as release of the requested documents could compromise or impede an ongoing federal investigation,” Reynold Romero, general counsel for the finance authority, wrote in separate letters denying the requests.
The denials contrast with the release by the Governor’s Office last month of a Sept. 22 subpoena it was issued in the federal investigation. The Bloomberg news agency obtained the document in response to a public records request. In addition, the University of New Mexico released to Bloomberg a subpoena it received in a separate federal investigation, also in response to a public records request.
The state’s public records act applies to all government agencies, including NMFA. It covers the vast majority of government records but allows a few exceptions, including patient medical records and certain types of law-enforcement records.
In an interview, Romero said he is “not familiar” with the release of subpoenas by the other state agencies, adding that, “We’re just dealing with ours.”
Asked to cite the exemption to the public records act that allows denial of the NMI requests, Romero didn’t name any of the specific exemptions listed in the act. He instead cited the provision that allows exemptions “as otherwise provided by law.”
“Our position has remained that we don’t want to impede or in any way compromise the investigation,” Romero said.
Similar requests NMI made to the Governor’s Office are awaiting a formal response, which, under the act, is due this week.
Newspaper’s requests also denied
A grand jury is investigating whether the California company received a state investment contract that paid almost $1.5 million in exchange for $110,000 in contributions to two Richardson political action committees and his 2006 gubernatorial re-election campaign.
In denying two requests from The New Mexican, that office’s records custodian, Marcie Maestas, wrote that the office “is prohibited from releasing records of this nature pursuant to the federal rules governing grand juries. There are countervailing public policy considerations that warrant denial of your request as well, including, but not limited to this office’s effort to cooperate and not unduly interfere with the federal grand jury investigation.”
The finance authority, meanwhile, responded to a records request from The New Mexican by saying it had located “some of your requested documents” but needed more time to complete the request, according to the newspaper’s Saturday article.
Leonard DeLayo, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, was quoted by The New Mexican as saying he’s not sure whether the documents requested by the newspaper are exempt from the public records act. NMI has written the foundation seeking advice on whether NMFA violated the public records act in denying NMI’s request.