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Editorial: It’s cloudy in New Mexico during Sunshine Week

It is disheartening, though certainly not surprising, to learn that during another Sunshine Week, which promotes government transparency, New Mexico’s legislative leaders eschew government email and keep their appointment details private.

So much for being accountable to the people they serve.

The Associated Press asked the top-ranking Republican and Democrat in each chamber for their appointment calendars and emails from the first week of February. The appointment entries lack detail, the emails are virtually all incoming. (Gov. Susana Martinez, who was also asked, provided her calendar but delayed responding to the email request beyond the 15-day deadline.)

Again, so much for being accountable to the people.

But then, maybe there’s a reason you don’t want your constituents to know exactly why you are attending a $17,429 dinner sponsored by the New Mexico Mining Association or what was on the discussion menu.

It’s not a new challenge for New Mexicans to try to find out who’s bending the ears of their duly elected senators and representatives, and for what reason. In 2013 an overwhelming majority of Democratic and Republican legislators in the House (48-16) and Senate (39-1) passed a resolution that their emails – from any account – are exempt from the Inspection of Public Records Act.

It’s interesting that Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe and House minority leader, voted against that resolution in 2013. Three years later, he was the only legislative leader who declined to release emails.

It’s also interesting that the Senate is where a joint resolution to establish an independent ethics commission this year died – pulled by sponsor Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque in response to the Senate Rules Committee’s revisions that would have put the onus on whistleblowers and made the process as opaque as possible.

Keeping the peoples’ business from the people has plenty of bipartisan support in the Land of Enchantment. And that casts a real shadow over New Mexico government during Sunshine Week.

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.