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Rio Grande Foundation asks judge to halt paid leave vote

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An organization with a pending lawsuit against Bernalillo County is asking a judge to prevent the County Commission from voting on a paid leave ordinance until after it releases associated public records.

Second Judicial District Judge Victor Lopez on Wednesday denied the libertarian-leaning Rio Grande Foundation’s first petition for a temporary restraining order.

But the foundation quickly filed an amended version in the Albuquerque court.

“The Bernalillo County Commission’s action to proceed to a vote on proposed legislation affecting the citizens after having improperly denied those citizens the essential records to be informed will irreparably harm the public by denying them meaningful opportunity to be heard and therefore denying them Due Process,” said the filing made in state District Court.

The foundation last week filed a lawsuit alleging the county had violated the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act by not completely fulfilling the foundation’s requests for correspondence about the paid leave ordinance.

The foundation on June 21 and July 1 sought paid leave-related records from County Commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Charlene Pyskoty.

The county had provided 10 emails and no text messages at the time of the lawsuit, according to the court filing.

Records show the county sought additional time to fulfill each request and subsequently extended those deadlines.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the paid leave legislation Tuesday, but Hart Stebbins said she expects to have resolved the Rio Grande Foundation matter by then. She said Wednesday afternoon the county intended to complete the IPRA requests by the end of the day.

“That should settle the matter in whole, both the IPRA and the extraordinary request for a judicial injunction against a legislative body,” Hart Stebbins wrote in a message to the Journal.

Lopez denied the Rio Grande Foundation’s first petition for a temporary restraining order, writing in his order that the application was not sworn or verified as required but also that the “application otherwise fails to allege adequate explanation or justification for issuance of a temporary restraining order.”

Hart Stebbins and O’Malley introduced a mandatory paid sick leave proposal in May, but the commission amended it in June following public comment from about 50 people — about half of whom spoke in support of paid leave and half who said they opposed the plan.

The newest version requires employers to provide all workers at least an hour of “paid time off” for every 32 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.

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