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Fired Finance Authority boss sues governor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The former CEO of the New Mexico Finance Authority is accusing Gov. Susana Martinez of illegally withholding documents related to an audit forgery scandal last year that preceded his firing.

Richard May alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that Martinez failed to respond to a 13-page Inspection of Public Records Act request he filed in April. He sought requested records of communication between administration staffers and the NMFA Board after the Finance Authority’s forged 2011 audit was made public in July 2012.

The lawsuit, filed in state District Court in Santa Fe, also accuses Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford of failing to provide requested public records.

New Mexico law requires that public records be provided within 15 days, except for requests deemed overly burdensome that are required to be fulfilled in a “reasonable” time. May’s request had gone 174 days without notice of a date the records would be available, according to the lawsuit.

May referred questions to his attorney, Steven Farber.

“For the administration that claims to be the most transparent in New Mexico history, the lack of transparency is outrageous,” Farber said in a statement. “Not one email, text message, memo, document, or even a piece of paper has been made available for public inspection.”

Governor’s spokesman Enrique Knell called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

The Martinez administration attempted to work with May on the broad IPRA request to provide him documents as they became available, but that offer was declined, Knell said.

“This is easily the most sweeping IPRA request that we’ve received. The sheer breadth of the request is obvious: It seeks records over a period exceeding two years and has 36 separate parts, each with multiple sub-parts,” Knell said.

“We have communicated regularly with the requestor, and have told him this is a very large request, unique in its breadth, and that it is taking significant time to gather and review the thousands of pages of documents, so the motivation for filing this lawsuit now is very suspicious, Knell said.

May was fired in September 2012 from the Finance Authority, which acts as a lender for local governments to finance infrastructure construction projects. An independent review of the forged audit concluded that a “massive failure” of agency oversight was to blame for the bogus audit. The investigation found no missing money.

May has said he did nothing wrong in connection with regards to the audit, which was faked by a Finance Authority employee.

In the lawsuit, May accused the governor and her administration of being “improperly involved in the oversight and administration” of the NMFA after the forged audit was disclosed last year.

The administration is using IPRA exceptions for overly burdensome requests “as a stalling tactic and subterfuge to hide from public disclosure the public records sought,” the lawsuit claims.