SANTA FE – A news reporter has filed a lawsuit against state government alleging violation of the state Inspection of Public Records Act for failure to provide bills, invoices or other records detailing payments to a private attorney who has represented Gov. Susana Martinez in court.
Independent reporter Jeff Proctor says he’s been trying to get the records since June 2016 and that the state General Services Department has maintained that the bills were protected from disclosure because of attorney-client and “work product” privileges.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, in response to a complaint from Proctor, found that the payment records were not “automatically” privileged and that GSD had violated the law by failing to provide a timely response to Proctor’s IPRA request, failing to send a proper denial letter and withholding records subject to inspection, according to the court complaint filed in Santa Fe for Proctor by Albuquerque lawyers David H. Urias and Frank T. Davis.
In January, the GSD provided a response with a “partial denial” of Proctor’s request. The department still “has refused to produce invoices, bills or other records that would show the total amount, or amounts per contract basis” that Albuquerque lawyer Paul Kennedy’s firm billed the state for his services, the suit says.
GSD lawyer Alexis Johnson said Friday that the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation. “Although we are still reviewing the complaint, we are confident that the court will find that GSD fully complied with the Inspection of Public Records Act,”Johnson said.
Peter St. Cyr, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said Friday that Martinez “has consistently promised New Mexicans that transparency is a top priority in her administration” and that it’s in the public interest “for the governor to honor that commitment and to recognize the doctrine that the people have a right to know.” He encouraged the governor to direct the GSD “to immediately comply with the law” and provide documents to Proctor.
Kennedy has represented the governor in several public matters, including a lawsuit filed by the Santa Fe Reporter alleging the Governor’s Office cut off communications with the weekly newspaper after it published an article critical of Martinez. Proctor, who covers criminal justice issues, is a contributing editor for the Reporter.