SANTA FE — Call up New Mexico’s transparency website and you’ll find the contact information for three state employees ready to help answer questions.
But one of those employees, Robert McEntyre, left state government eight months ago.
And the site misspells the name of another, Wyndham Kemsley.
The problems go well beyond that, says state Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque. At one point, the site — established by a 2010 law — had gone years without posting the required information on school finances, he said, and it’s still not clear whether the data are all there.
“This is law. This is supposed to be done,” Rue said in an interview. “It’s not a wish list.”
Legislative staff and an independent advocacy group, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, are now reviewing the Sunshine Portal to see what information is missing or outdated. State law requires the posting of many financial documents, contracts and other data.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration disputes that any information is missing. The problem with school budget data, a spokesman said, was caused by a contractor that helps maintain the site and fixed immediately.
“Transparency has and always will be a very important part of this administration,” Kemsley, a spokesman for the Department of Information Technology, said in a statement. “Since Day One, we’ve committed to being open and transparent, and that includes making improvements to the Sunshine Portal.”
Darryl Ackley, Cabinet secretary for information technology, told lawmakers last week that his staff is doing the best it can with limited resources.
The documents and information required to be posted, he said, are spread across many state agencies — some within the administration’s control, some not — making it difficult to ensure it’s all going on the site. Thousands of documents a day might be required for posting, he said.
The amount of “data we have as a state is staggering,” Ackley said during a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee. But “I agree there’s a lot more we can do.”
Peter St. Cyr, executive director of the Foundation for Open Government, said his group is carrying out an exhaustive review of what’s required by law to be posted on the portal and what’s actually there.
“We support the public’s ability to search for records and information online at their own convenience — because too often their records requests are delayed, deferred or denied,” he said, “and this is a great way to take the burden off of records custodians.”
The Sunshine Portal was launched in the waning weeks of then-Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. Rue, a Republican, led a bipartisan push for the bill in the 2010 session, with help from then-Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a Democrat.
There have been several updates since then, with new laws passed requiring more information to be published on the site.
Rue said the site isn’t easy enough to navigate, making it difficult to determine what has been posted.
A 2015 law, for example, calls for the portal to publish state contracts for the lease, sale or development of state land, but a tab on the site titled “State Land Contracts” is empty, showing results only if the user searches by a previous year. There are no results for this fiscal year.
“It’s an embarrassment,” Rue said.
But Kemsley said the portal complies with the law. Any problems reported to the Department of Information Technology help desk have been addressed, he said.
“Over the past seven years,” he said, “several laws have been enacted by the Legislature to expand the mission and the depth of the information posted on the portal. Despite all these laws being unfunded mandates, DoIT has worked diligently to implement these new requirements with very limited resources.”
He added: “All of these capabilities have been added to the portal in accordance with statute.”
Rue, however, didn’t hold back last week when he questioned Martinez administration officials about the school data. He also suggested the portal doesn’t have all the required contract information published, including records showing which contracts have been awarded to in- and out-of-state vendors.
“This was going to be the most transparent, open executive administration we’ve ever had,” Rue said, “and it hasn’t happened.”