Alibi V.26 No.43 • Oct 26-Nov 1, 2017 


State AG: Rio Rancho Overcharged For Public Records

The News Monkey

The New Mexico Attorney General's office said the city of Rio Rancho violated state public records law by requiring a $30 payment for access to 911 recordings. On Jan. 10, resident Dianne Goodman requested copies of all calls for service to an address in Rio Rancho since 2012. The city told Goodman that the records were not available, and would need to be copied and converted to a different format. To hear the records, the city told Goodman she would have to pay a $30 fee for each call. In response, Goodman filed a complaint with the AG’s Office. In a letter to the city clerk dated Oct. 16, Assistant Attorney General Lori Chavez recommended that Rio Rancho allow Dianne Goodman free access to the calls she requested, pointing out that the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requires agencies provide “the opportunity to inspect records without charge.” The letter also notes that while cities can charge a minimal fee for obtaining physical copies, inspection of original records must be allowed free of charge to anyone requesting them. According to the letter, the IPRA does not allow for agencies to deny requests for records “due to the inability by the agency to reproduce the record without retrieving and reproducing excerpts.” After receiving the letter, the city refunded Goodman's $30, but a representative of Rio Rancho told the Albuquerque Journal that the city disagrees with the AG's “nonbinding opinion.” Goodman told a reporter that she did not make the complaint just to receive a refund, but to address what she perceives as a wrongdoing by the city of Rio Rancho. She said she hopes the city will change its policy and charge only $5 per copy of 911 calls. It is unclear if the city plans to amend the policy.

Senators Side With Nuclear Oversight Board

Last week, state Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich continued a push to provide proper funding to a federal oversight panel in charge of monitoring operations at national laboratories and other nuclear sites. The two members of New Mexico's congressional delegation added an amendment to a defense spending bill which will allow the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to approach Congress yearly to request additional resources if needed. The board's continuing functionality seemed threatened last week when the Center for Public Integrity published a private letter from the board’s chairman—Republican appointee Sean Sullivan—written to the director of the Office of Management and Budget that suggested downsizing or abolishing the nuclear oversight panel he chairs to save $31 million a year for the federal government. In the letter, he called the board “a relic of the Cold War-era defense establishment” and said that downsizing or removing the board altogether would be in line with President Donald Trump's plans to reduce the federal civilian workforce. Negotiations on the future of the board are ongoing, but a final decision is expected in February as part of the Trump administration's reorganization plan.