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AG’s Office sues Espanola school district for records violations

SANTA FE – The state Attorney General on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Española Public Schools, its superintendent and records custodian, alleging violations of the state Inspection of Public Records Act.

The lawsuit accuses the parties of failing to respond to requests for records by an agent with the Special Investigations Division of the AG's Office within a reasonable time frame or providing proper denial or explanation as to why inspection of the records was denied.

The lawsuit says that Superintendent Eric V. Martinez “willfully and knowingly denied” the records.

Martinez did not respond to an interview request from the

Journal on Friday. But Geno Zamora, an attorney representing Espa ñ ola Schools, said Friday he had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment at this time.

According to the suit filed in state District Court, Agent Jon Bergevin of the AG's investigations unit first requested records on March 22, 2016. The request included emails “drafted, sent, received, forwarded, carbon copied, or blind carbon copied” from the EPS accounts of six people, and emails sent by any of 15 people from their public or private accounts pertaining to “official public business” dating back to Jan. 1, 2010.

The school district responded that the request was overly “burdensome and broad,” and over a period of several months extended the time frame, saying records custodian Crystal Lea Garcia was having to review and redact 200,000 pages of documents by hand.

After being reminded by the AG's Office last month that public records must be provided within a “reasonable time,” Garcia responded by saying she had completed 1,762 of the 200,000 pages.

“Nearly nine months after Agent Bergevin's original request, Respondents were allowing inspection of less than one percent of the total identified responsive emails,” the lawsuit states. “In other words, for each business day since Agent Bergevin's original request, Respondents had reviewed and redacted approximately 10 pages.”

Last week, Garcia sent a letter to Statler stating she would set aside approximately eight hours each Friday to work on the documents. “Thus, I estimate a completion date of 25 months,” she wrote. Garcia also said she had researched, identified and previously made available 99 of 100 “categories of documentation” the AG's office had requested. Included were 16 categories of documents relating to County Commissioner Barney Trujillo or his company, 2Smooth Marketing, seeking such things as invoices, purchase orders, work logs and bank statements.

In August 2014, the school district gave Trujillo an over-$50,000 no-bid annual contract to promote the school district. The Attorney General's Office has previously sought documents from Rio Arriba County relating to a county-financed “beautification project” in Trujillo's hometown of Chimayó, expenditures that were not standard operating expenses, lobbying services, and “County Commissioner Barney Trujillo's County related activities.”