First Judicial District Judge David K. Thomson has slated a hearing in a suit filed by Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero against Attorney General Hector Balderas and his records custodian Patricia Salazar for 11 a.m., May 15 at the Los Alamos Justice Center.
Lucero’s suit, which was filed by his attorney Blair Dunn, accuses Balderas of withholding a 2016 memorandum containing an opinion or evaluation of the ongoing dispute involving the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s duties. Dunn is a candidate for Balderas’ position in this year’s election.
The suit alleges that Lucero met in August 2016 with Peter Auh, then an assistant attorney general, and Jack LeVick, then executive director for the New Mexico Sheriffs Association in Santa Fe. Dunn says Auh presented what he described as a final version of a memorandum he had prepared concerning the opinion or evaluation of the Attorney General’s Office regarding the dispute over the legal responsibilities of the elected sheriff in Los Alamos County.
It states that Lucero and LeVick were allowed to read the letter but before the meeting concluded, it was interrupted by Assistant Attorney General John Wheeler who “snatched back the memorandum and stated the opinion was going to be sequestered and not released to the public”.
Jan. 5, Dunn asked Salazar’s office for the memorandum under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), and Jan. 10 Salazar responded saying her office has conducted a thorough search of records maintained or held by the Attorney General’s Office and found no responsive records and that Balderas has not issued an opinion regarding the matter.
Lucero is asking the court for a declaratory judgment adjudicating the denial of the public records by Balderas, and if necessary, a writ of mandamus requiring Balderas to produce the requested records.
Balderas’s office (OAG) claims it has not issued an opinion on Lucero’s situation and that as the agency responsible for enforcing New Mexico’s transparency laws, it takes seriously its responsibilities under IPRA. It says the requested document simply does not exist, therefore, the OAG complied with IPRA when it responded that it has no responsive documents.
The OAG claims that instead of offering any facts or evidence he believes will contravene the OAG’s showing, Lucero “rests on suspicion and conjecture” and that Lucero’s request for discovery in the case is “premised on nothing but a hunch” and is insufficient to delay the OAG’s motion for summary judgment.