News Column

N.M. Group Wants Martinez's Security Detail Records

June 27, 2013

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is asking Gov. Susana Martinez's administration to release detailed records the administration previously denied about travel and expenses associated with the governor's security detail.

The open-government group on Tuesday filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request for "the schedules of any overtime paid to and all travel expenses of officers assigned to Gov. Susana Martinez's security detail" in August, September and October 2012. The period was the height of the 2012 election season, during which Martinez took several political trips accompanied by a taxpayer-paid security detail.

State agencies, including the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Finance and Administration, previously have denied requests for the records from The Associated Press.

Administration officials have attempted to justify the denial of security detail records, such as calendars and procurement card statements, by saying the information "could compromise the security of the Governor and her family."

"This is a troubling response because we do not think it reflects clear direction from New Mexico's Supreme Court on an important issue of public access," said FOG acting executive director Janice Honeycutt. "We would urge the agency to comply and avoid a costly legal battle in which the taxpayers will likely pick up the tab."

State officials have offered to compile expense summaries for the security detail that exclude details about specific transactions and locations of purchases. The FOG request said such summaries are "not acceptable."

In its records request, FOG cited the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling -- Republican Party of New Mexico v. New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department -- that concluded state agencies could no longer deny release of records to protect other state interests unless the record is specifically exempted from release under IPRA or other regulation.

Attorney General Gary King's office reached a similar conclusion in December 2012, saying the security detail records were improperly withheld from an earlier IPRA request.

King's office said the justification of withholding records for "countervailing public policy" interests, such as security concerns, was no longer allowed under the Supreme Court decision.

The administration also has denied recent media requests for security detail records of the State Police officers who accompanied first gentleman Chuck Franco for a six-day alligator hunting trip to Louisiana.

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(c)2013 Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013