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Lisa Brenner And Son File Suit Against County

on June 16, 2017 - 8:11am
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos resident Lisa Brenner and her son, Patrick Brenner, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment ordering production of copies of emails sent or received May 15 by Los Alamos County Councilors. The suit is against Los Alamos County Council and its Designated Custodian of Public Records Barb Ricci.

The Brenners’ attorney is A. Blair Dunn of Western Agriculture, Resource and Business Advocates and the case has been assigned to First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton. The suit indicates Patrick Brenner emailed Ricci at 5:30 p.m. May 15 asking for the records and that Ricci responded saying she would forward any additional responsive records received on or before May 31. The suit claims Ricci sent an email dated May 25 indicating that the case had been officially closed but that the deadline to respond was May 31.

In a separate records request, the suit says Patrick Brenner received documents indicating that at least one Los Alamos County Council Member was communicating with Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone regarding County business from his personal email address. Brenner indicates Council members have provided through Ricci some of the emails requested but that email sent from private email addresses while performing public business have not been provided as well as responses to emails.

The suit accuses the Council and Ricci of violating the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) and have asked for an injunction ordering the Council and Ricci to produce all relevant documents in their possession. It also seeks statutory damages, attorney’s fees and costs for the alleged failure to follow IPRA. Its asks for a declaratory judgment that the failure to provide the records is a violation of IPRA and that the Court issue a writ of mandamus requiring that the requested records be produced.

Exhibits attached to the suit indicate that at 12:28 p.m. May 15, Patrick Brenner sent an email to all County Councilors with the subject line, “You People Continue to Disgust Me”. The text of the email is as follows:


You lost. When you tried to remove my voice in law enforcement, remember: You lost. Stop screwing around with the Office of Sheriff, the Sheriff and the budget. Rick Reiss and your pitiful and underhanded attempt to ‘vote for public safety’. Absolutely abhorrent.

You are disgusting. Absolutely terrible. I will work hard to ensure that your bond issue fails, since you have done the same to de-legitimize the Office of Sheriff. Disgusting, deplorable, despicable. You are a total embarrassment to Los Alamos and the State of New Mexico. Every other county laughs when they are told we tried to remove our Sheriff.

Shame shames shame shame shame. Pigs. Fix this mess you have made. Respond with an apology.”

Another exhibit attached to the suit shows that Councilor Chrobocinski forwarded Brenner’s email to the police chief at 9:04 p.m. May 15 along with comments he said were made by a friend of his who was helping to support the bond election. In the email, Chrobocinski said he feared Brenner would resort to violence as he was “becoming more and more unhinged”. He asked Sgambelloe if anything in Brenner’s letter rose “to the level of criminal”, and if there was something he could do to protect his family, his business, his fellow Councilors and himself from Brenner.

Also attached are two emails from Sgambellone. One is addressed to Chrobocinski and says he had been forwarded Brenner’s email, was reviewing the issue, and would keep the County Manager/Council informed. Sgambellone told Chrobocinski that should he ever be concerned about his own safety, the safety of his family, his co-workers, or his business, he should call LAPD immediately.

In another email sent to all Councilors, Sgambellone said he had forwarded Brenner’s letter to Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist for review. The next sentence in the email is redacted, but it continues, “I think it is important to remain vigilant in all cases where passionate citizens may choose a different path to air their grievances, and in any case where you feel there could be an issue, please do not hesitate to contact the Police Department, or me directly”. In conclusion, Sgambellone says he has reached out to the county manager to request a training with the Council on security issues, particularly for when they are in session.