_copyright”>By Jessica Dyer
Journal Staff Writer
The University of New Mexico Foundation says it is waiting for a judge’s written order before deciding whether to appeal the recent court ruling that its records should be open to the public.
But a spokeswoman this week reiterated the foundation’s stance that donor information should be protected.
District Judge Nancy Franchini ruled May 24 that the foundation – a private entity that exists solely to serve UNM – is acting on the public institution’s behalf in its fundraising and that its corresponding records are therefore subject to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.
Franchini made the decision in awarding summary judgement to plaintiff Daniel Libit, an independent journalist who sued the foundation in 2017 after it denied him documents related to WisePies’ now-defunct naming rights agreement for the Pit.
Libit’s attorneys argued that the foundation was “a creature” of the university itself and should be subject to IPRA, while the foundation maintained it was a private body and that releasing certain records would violate donors’ privacy and their First Amendment rights to remain anonymous.
Transparency advocates have hailed Franchini’s ruling, saying it could mean greater public access to similar foundations across the state.
But the UNM Foundation says while it respects the ruling, it disagrees with it. The foundation’s 25-member board is “considering its legal options and next steps as we await the final order from the court,” according to spokeswoman Jennifer Kemp.
The order has not yet been entered into the court record.
Kemp said in a written statement this week that the foundation has attempted to be transparent by providing certain information through its website and in response to direct inquiries.
“At the same time, we believe that the Foundation has a solemn obligation to protect donor confidentiality and privacy,” she said. “We believe a balance can be found between transparency and donor confidentiality.”