SANTA FE – State agencies in New Mexico would have 30 days to disclose to the public any taxpayer-funded settlements stemming from sexual harassment or discrimination under a proposal backed by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque.
He is also pushing for an audit examining whether the state is posting records to the Sunshine Portal as required by law and proposing extra scrutiny of the governor’s contingency fund.
“The taxpayers should have a right to see this information,” Rue said Friday in a meeting with reporters.
Rue, sponsor of the state’s Sunshine Portal Transparency Act, passed in 2010, pre-filed the bills ahead of Tuesday’s opening of the legislative session.
The filing comes after a Journal report outlining out-of-date information on the portal. The front page of the portal, for example, lists the contact information for an employee who left the state nine months ago, and it misspells the name of another contact.
Rue said some information was missing for years until he pointed it out.
“This is very troubling,” Rue said. “We’ve wasted seven years, because I feel there hasn’t been a real sense of commitment on the part of this executive to build that portal and expand it.”
Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration contends that no legally required information is missing from the site and that information-technology employees are doing the best they can with limited resources. The missing information was the result of a contractor’s error, the administration said.
It isn’t clear whether the proposals can be taken up this year. The 30-day session is generally dedicated to spending and revenue measures, in addition to topics authorized by the governor.
A spokesman didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on Rue’s proposals, but Martinez has said she supports adding more information to the portal.
Rue said he hopes to win a determination that the bills are “germane” and can be considered. Here’s a look at the proposals:
• Senate Bill 88 would requiring state agencies to publish on the Sunshine Portal the amounts of taxpayer-funded settlement agreements to resolve claims under the state Human Rights Act or the federal law barring racial and other discrimination.
The agency would have to post a summary of the facts leading to the settlement, without the names involved; the amount of public money paid for damages; and attorney fees.
The information would have to be posted within 30 days. Under the current system, Rue said, settlements are available after six months, if a request is filed under the state Inspection of Public Records Act.
• Senate Bill 83 would appropriate $50,000 to hire an independent company to review compliance with the Sunshine Portal Transparency Act.
• Senate Bill 52 would require annual audits of the governor’s contingency fund, an off-the-books account that pays for social events.