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New Mexico Telegram » Courts, Featured, Health, Open Government » Judge says audit can remain secret

Judge says audit can remain secret

Redacted behavioral health auditA district court judge ruled that the behavioral health audit will remain secret and is not subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act. The ruling came in a lawsuit from New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Lawyers from the office of the Attorney General and the state Human Services Department successfully argued that the audit should be able to be exempted based on the law enforcement exemption from the Inspection of Public Records Act.

The lawyers argued that it would jeopardize the investigation and give the accused agencies a chance to destroy documents or create new documents.

The lawyer for the news organizations said that this would mean other state entities could give information to law enforcement agencies as a way to avoid releasing documents through IPRA.

The judge ultimately came down on the side of the AG and HSD.

State District Court Judge Douglas Driggers said that the news organizations can seek the release of the audit again in six months. The judge also granted the news organizations lawyers fees through October 21 when the last part of the redacted audit was released.

The audit has been a source of controversy since it was used as justification to freeze funding to over a dozen behavioral health providers. The providers have said they are being punished without being able to see what they are accused of.

The state contracted with Arizona companies to take over for the groups that could no longer provide services without Medicaid funding. There have been disruptions in services for some of those during the transition.

News organizations have said that the audit should be released under IPRA because it was done for a public entity with public money.

Another district court judge will decide on how much of the audit to release after a lawsuit by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

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Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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