Editorial: APS should learn it's not above open records law - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: APS should learn it’s not above open records law

Albuquerque Public Schools must think it’s above the state’s sunshine laws. Why else would it repeatedly and flagrantly violate the Inspection of Public Records Act?

A judge last year ordered APS to pay the Journal and KOB-TV more than $400,000, and nearly $215,000 for attorney fees and costs, for failing to provide records and missing deadlines related to the departure of former Superintendent Winston Brooks. Lesson learned? No. Parent Michelle Jenson has made three requests for public records over the past year, which she says APS has ignored. Now, a judge has ordered APS to follow the law.

Jenson filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office before emailing APS Superintendent Scott Elder in January 2021 to explain she had received no responses to two previous public records requests. Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp sent Elder a letter dated July 20. Jenson “received no records or information whatsoever, in what appear to be obvious and flagrant violations of IPRA,” he wrote. “Presently, whatever process (APS) has in place simply does not function and must be fixed immediately.”

More than six months later, and still no word from APS. IPRA standards require a response within three business days. Recordkeepers must produce documents within 15 days unless the request is determined to be excessively burdensome or broad.

Elder helped shed light on suspected irregularities that led to criminal charges against former state House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton in her capacity as a district employee. Clearly, he understands and respects the public’s right to know what’s going on in our public schools. Which makes Jenson’s treatment all the more vexing.

Do as the AG suggests and fix this mess before it costs taxpayers more and further tarnishes APS’ records reputation.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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