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Mixed ruling on SF paper vs. governor

SANTA FE – A now-retired Santa Fe district judge decided Gov. Susana Martinez’s office didn’t violate constitutional rights by not providing information to a Santa Fe newspaper, but she did rule that the office violated the Inspection of Public Records Act three times.

Judge Pro Tem Sarah Singleton also ruled that public business conducted on private email accounts then becomes public record.

The Santa Fe Reporter, a weekly newspaper, filed a lawsuit against Martinez in 2013, claiming her office discriminated against the publication and delayed public records requests after it published an article that was critical of the administration in late 2012. A bench ruling began in late March while Singleton was still an active judge. Singleton filed her 65-page ruling Wednesday and found that the Reporter couldn’t prove the governor discriminated against it.

Singleton did, however, rule that emails about state business on accounts were public record and ordered that the Governor’s Office produce emails between Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, and Martinez in 2011 and 2012.

“The law is clear that when a person conducts public business on a private email account the record created is a public record subject to inspection under IPRA,” Singleton wrote.

Julie Ann Grimm, editor and publisher of the Reporter, said Friday that this portion of Singleton’s ruling stands out the most.

“This is significant because we have a District Court judge saying that,” Grimm said. “That’s just one of the rulings that affirms the power of the Inspection of Public Records Act.”

Spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said in an email Friday that Martinez prevailed in most facets of the case.

“The Santa Fe Reporter’s claims were overreaching, and the Court firmly rejected them,” Cantrell said. “… In particular, the Court rejected the claim that SFR’s constitutional rights were ever violated. The Court also found that the Governor’s Office has adequate training and search procedures for public records requests, finding only a few minor violations related to SFR’s requests.”

Singleton wrote that testimony from Alexa Schirtzinger, former editor of the Santa Fe Reporter, didn’t prove that Martinez discriminated against the Reporter for not providing some news releases and other information because other media outlets experienced similar problems.

“Ms. Schirtzinger’s testimony on this issue however, does not establish a constitutional violation because she admitted that the problem was an unintentional technical one, which when called (to) the attention of the Information Office was remedied,” Singleton wrote.

Singleton gave both sides 14 days to file a notice of appeal.

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