What’s Wrong With This Picture?
I can’t even seem to get a good night’s rest without Mayor Martin Chávez making a mockery of what he says he stands for.
Tuesday, I watched his slight-of-hand, fast-talking, bamboozling of the old folks at the Bear Canyon Senior Center during his community gathering to explain his proposed budget to city council.
The Albuquerque Journal’s city hall reporter, Jim Ludwick, writes today that Chávez wants to open up city government.
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s Bob Johnson praised the “initiatives” saying the city is doing a better job with “sunshine” laws than the state.
Johnson told Ludwick that openness increases the public's faith in government.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
I learned as a child the east coast phrase that “Gimbles doesn’t tell Macy,” about sales prices. I am going to skirt the details of my on-going efforts to report a couple of particular stories in the hopes that I can be the one to disclose the facts of these events.
I have been working on one story for over two years and have made repeated informal requests for information from various city employees, but have met total resistance.
Ludwick is also working on the same story. He has an advantage; he has access.
At least one television station has aired videotape of some of the documents I seek to view.
On March 14, I filed with the city clerk two formal written e-mail requests to view documents under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
The act requires governments to respond, in writing, within three days as to where the records may be viewed. If the government cannot immediately provide the documents, they may inform the requestor that they need more time. The law allows the government up to 15 days to respond.
Over the years, I have seen a number of tactics used by the city to avoid complying with the law. Though I have obtained information after making e-mail requests, I thought they might argue that they did not have to respond to an unwritten request. So I took it to a more formal level.
When I received no response from anyone at the city, I hand delivered copies of the requests to City Attorney Bob White on April 12. White is the direct supervisor of the city clerk, who is responsible for handling the requests.
Fifteen days have come and gone, a second time, without a response. Even if my requests are being denied, the custodian of the records is required to respond in writing.
By law, this should be an open and shut case. Next step, court?
I couldn’t agree more with Johnson’s comment that openness increases the public's faith in government.
Yet, Chávez’ assertion of opening city government is hollow. If he really wants to prove his openness we could sit down over a cup of coffee and he could grant me an interview.