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PRC drops policy that delayed release of transcripts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The public once again has free and immediate online access to Public Regulation Commission hearing transcripts.

PRC administrative staff had announced a new policy in July that it would not post transcripts until two weeks after receiving them from court reporters and that it would charge people for early copies.

The commission previously had posted documents on E-Docket for free access immediately after receiving them from court reporters, a process that usually took four to eight days after a hearing ended.

The change in policy forced case intervenors who couldn’t wait 15 days for transcripts to either pay 25 cents per page for an early copy through an Inspection of Public Records Act request, or to pay court reporters directly for a copy, usually at $5 to $7 per page.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government objected to the revised policy, saying it set a “terrible precedent” for transparency and public access to records.

In late October, the PRC rescinded the July policy, calling it a “temporary” measure to resolve complaints by court reporters seeking more money for their transcripts.

The firm providing services had proposed doubling the fees it charges the PRC for transcripts if the commission continued to immediately post them on E-Docket, according to an Oct. 24 letter that four of the five commissioners sent to FOG.

Until now, Bean and Associates in Albuquerque has managed nearly all of the PRC’s court reporting, said Commission Chairman Sandy Jones. But the PRC now has agreements with two new firms, and as a result, PRC staff ended the 15-day delay policy effective Nov. 1.

Commissioner Valerie Espinoza said the delay never should have been imposed in the first place.

“I never agreed with it,” Espinoza said. “The company charging the PRC was the one who had an issue with giving out free copies of transcripts. All these documents are public, and they should remain that way.”

FOG praised the PRC for reversing its policy.

“In this case, we have to congratulate the PRC,” said FOG Executive Director Melanie Majors. “They realized they weren’t in compliance with IPRA, and they changed their policy.”

State agencies like the PRC shouldn’t be promoting private companies’ goods and services, Majors added.

“If a company is paid once by the PRC, it shouldn’t get paid again for selling the same thing to others,” Majors said. “It’s not the PRC’s responsibility to help them get over and above what they’re already receiving from the commission.”

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