The New Mexico Attorney General doesn’t seem to care if taxpayers get the records they paid for on incidents that impact their communities.
Hector Balderas leads an AG’s office that has ignored an ongoing issue with the City of Rio Rancho, declining to release police records involving juveniles for about 2½ years.
Most recently, the city declined to provide preliminary police reports or the 911-call recording in the death of 2-year-old Lincoln Harmon in December.
This child and his death matter to the community. The community has a right to know what happened, and releasing the truth could lighten the social stigma against the innocent and help hold any guilty party accountable.
The AG’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) Compliance Guide, developed under Balderas in 2015, is at nmag.gov/ipra.aspx. Click on the link in the second paragraph under the purple box. Police reports involving juveniles are discussed on pages 12 and 13.
The city believes the state Children’s Code prohibits release of such records, but I believe that’s a misinterpretation made first by the state Children, Youth and Families Department and then the city.
I know of no other New Mexico local government or law enforcement agency that takes this stance.
My disagreement with the city is old news. But now multiple news organizations are involved, and the requests I’ve gotten for updates on Lincoln’s case show me this matters to the community.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government notified the AG’s IPRA attorney about the city’s practice in fall 2019. After getting no response, I filed an official complaint in November 2020.
I’ve inquired about progress two or three times, without getting action. Even if the opinion came out against my stance, at least it would be settled.
This ongoing delay shows a disregard for the people’s right to know and for the law itself.
It’s well known in the New Mexico news community that Balderas doesn’t prioritize freedom of information laws and rarely acts on related complaints. Interesting that the state’s top law enforcement officer cherry-picks which laws to enforce.
His office has dozens of attorneys, including one who’s supposed to focus on IPRA complaints, and hires outside lawyers to deal with some cases.
How can there be no time or personnel to respond to my complaint in 2½ years?
The Albuquerque Journal received a ruling on an IPRA complaint against Albuquerque Public Schools in a matter of months.
Why is Rio Rancho treated as less important than Albuquerque?
If you think the community should know what happened to Lincoln Harmon, and should have access to information about child abusers and juvenile delinquents in our neighborhoods, please tell Balderas. As an elected official, he’s accountable to you.
You can file an IPRA complaint at secure.nmag.gov/ecs or by calling the Open Government Division at 505-490-4060.
You can also call the AG’s office at 1-844-255-9210 or [email protected]. The office is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too.
If you’d like to mention my complaint, its reference number is NMOAG-ECS-20201103-988f.
Maybe enough voices calling for action will make the difference.