Rio Rancho city government has doubled down on a bad bet against public transparency and accountability – wasting additional taxpayer dollars in the process.
Back in January, Rio Rancho resident Dianne Goodman filed a formal Inspection of Public Records Act request seeking all 911 calls and call-for-service reports for a specific address in Rio Rancho since 2012. But a city official told Goodman the audio recordings of 911 calls were unavailable until they were copied and put into a different format – and that a fee of $30 per call was required in advance.
Assistant state Attorney General Lori Chavez informed City Clerk Stephen Ruger that inspection of public records should cost the requester nothing, the $30-per-recording fee was “excessive” and the city cannot charge for “identifying and isolating records.” Chavez recommended city officials re-evaluate the fee structure to ensure IPRA compliance.
Instead, City Attorney Gregory Lauer went looking for a loophole and came up with a special provision in a separate statute, the Public Records Act, that the city claims allows municipalities to charge a requester for staff time and related expenses. In the meantime, the city provided Goodman with the records and offered to refund her money.