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Editorial: AG can’t redact his responsibility to public

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“The public deserves the HSD audit it paid for”
– Headline, Albuquerque Journal, July 27, 2013

 

Three months after that editorial was published, the taxpaying public, 15 behavioral health providers and their many vulnerable clients are still waiting.

Waiting for Attorney General Gary King to release actual findings – not random pages so heavily redacted as to make them meaningless – from the $3 million audit ordered early this year by the Human Services Department.

Waiting for King to release details that support or disprove allegations of $36 million in mismanaged and/or fraudulent claims.

And waiting for King to shed some light on whether the state was justified in freezing Medicaid funding to the 15 providers, and having Arizona companies take over a dozen of them, supervise two others and provide technical assistance to another.

King claims the audit is evidence received in connection with a criminal investigation and falls within the law enforcement exception to the Inspection of Public Records Act.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government sued in September to have the audit released or have King appear in court and justify the refusal to do so. HSD said it had no independent objection to its release, but it is a state agency and King is the top state lawyer.

No hearing has been held in the case, but King recently responded with 52 heavily redacted pages from a 300-plus page report and the unsupported declaration that any more transparency would interfere with his criminal investigation.

FOG board member Greg Williams, a lawyer who handles open government cases, counters that “audit reports of public entities are public. Just because the AG is looking into the fact that the audit may have uncovered something criminal, or possibly criminal, doesn’t mean they get to exclude it. The public is entitled to know what’s in the report.”

That was true this summer, and it’s true today.

HSD’s contractor, OptumHealth, was aware that something seemed amiss almost immediately after installing a new software system last year, and HSD contracted for the outside audit in February. King’s office participated in the design of the audit and has had the results for four months. Then again, his office does not have a track record of acting in a timely manner (i.e. his still incomplete investigation of the now-open-for-business Downs casino audit, a years-old probe of a million dollars in cash handed out to employees of the Central Consolidated School District for a few hours of training, and the failed prosecution of a former secretary of state).

New Mexicans paid for the HSD audit and for the fraudulent services it allegedly uncovered. They deserve to see it.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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