State Attorney General Gary King’s office sided with Independent Source PAC in the PAC’s attempts to get records relating to a hunting trip involving First Gentleman Chuck Franco, the husband of Gov. Susana Martinez.
A letter from an assistant Attorney General directed the New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS) to provide documents requested by ISPAC to the group “as soon as practicable.”
In his IPRA request to the DPS, Michael Corwin of ISPAC sought:
Any leave requests, vacation requests and time sheets covering the period for time off of September 1, 2011 through September 12, 2011 for New Mexico State Police Government Security Detail officers Reuben Maynes and Chavez (first name unknown) as identified in the excel spreadsheet for the Louisiana hunting and fishing trip.
DPS denied the request using “countervailing public policy” — but that exception was struck down by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
We’ll let the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s Twitter feed give the short explanation on this:
@peter_stcyr Short story here: Requests for public records can only be denied if there’s a SPECIFIC exception to IPRA spelled out in law.
— NMFOG (@nmfog) January 3, 2013
The letter from Assistant Attorney General Sean M. Cunniff, embedded below, has a longer explanation.
The Court made it clear that a public body may withold public record only if it is based on (1) a specific exception contained within IPRA, (2) a statutory or regulatory exception, (3) a rule adopted by the New Mexico Supreme Court, or (4) a privilege protecting a record from disclosure that is grounded in the U.S. or state constitution.
The Office of the Attorney General found that DPS cited none of these in their denial of the IPRA request by Corwin.
The Supreme Court decision that the Office of the Attorney General cited happened after the denial. But Cunniff wrote, “Although Republican Party was decided after Mr. Corwin filed his request with the Department [of Public Safety], his request remains active.”
Corwin is seeking the records as a part of his liberal super PAC’s ongoing investigation into whether the bid for a 25-year lease to manage the State Fair racino in Albuquerque was rigged. The lease was awarded to the Downs of Albuquerque, whose shareholders have donated at least $85,000 to the governor. Downs majority owners William Windham and John Turner have business interests in Louisiana, where Franco visited just before the Downs was awarded a lease that’s projected to give the company $1 billion in revenues over 25 years.
Corwin writes on his website:
Through a reliable source we have learned that prior to this trip Chuck Franco had gone hunting with Paul Blanchard the third owner of Downs at Albuquerque. Could Blanchard have called his Louisiana partners to make sure that Franco was well taken care of during this trip? For all we know the security detail could have dropped Franco off in the company of the Louisiana owners and then went on their way to have a taxpayer funded vacation.
Correction: The story incorrectly referred to the First Gentleman as “John Franco” instead of “Chuck Franco.”