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Suit: Bernalillo County stonewalling on records request

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A critic of Bernalillo County’s paid sick leave proposal is now suing the county alleging improper denial of documents related to the legislation.

The libertarian leaning Rio Grande Foundation filed a lawsuit this week in state District Court in Albuquerque claiming the county violated the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act by providing an incomplete response to requests for communications related to the legislation.

The foundation filed requests on June 21 and July 1 seeking paid leave-related records from Commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Charlene Pyskoty, according to the lawsuit. The county has so far provided 10 emails and no text messages, according to the lawsuit.

The county sought additional time to fulfill each request and subsequently extended those deadlines, according to documents included with the lawsuit.

It has not turned over records “we knew existed,” foundation president Paul Gessing said in a news release Friday morning.

“Bernalillo County is not exempt from New Mexico law and their attempts to stonewall us in our efforts to access basic information about an important policy issue are ridiculous and unnecessary,” Gessing said in the statement.

The county did not immediately respond Friday to a Journal request for comment on the lawsuit.

Hart Stebbins and O’Malley introduced a mandatory paid sick leave proposal in May, though it was since amended. The newest version requires employers to provide all workers at least an hour of “paid time off” for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours per year, but does not restrict its use to illness or other medical needs. It applies only to businesses with at least two employees in the unincorporated areas of the county, such as the East Mountains and South Valley.

The AARP, immigrant rights organizations and other advocacy groups support the bill, but many business associations are fighting it. Rio Grande Foundation representatives have spoken against the proposal at multiple public meetings.

The commission could vote on the proposal at its Aug. 20 meeting, though no agenda has been released yet.

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