Motion For Summary Judgment Continued In Los Alamos County Sheriff’s IPRA Suit Against AG

By MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Daily Post
maire@ladailypost.com

First Judicial District Judge David K. Thomson has continued a motion for summary judgment until needed discovery is complete in a suit filed by Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero against Attorney General Hector Balderas and his records custodian Patricia Salazar.

Lucero’s attorney Blair Dunn had filed a request for a presentment hearing in the case following the May 15 hearing because, as correspondence between Dunn and Balderas’s staff included in the Court record indicates, there was some disagreement as to what Judge Thomson’s May 15 decision entailed.

The order states that Lucero will be allowed to depose Balderas’s Records Custodian Patricia Salazar and must seek leave of the Court for any further depositions.

Lucero’s suit accuses the Attorney General’s Office 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”.

In January, Dunn asked Salazar’s office for the memorandum under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), and 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.

Dunn then asked the Court for a declaratory judgment on the denial of the public records by Balderas, and if necessary, a writ of mandamus requiring Balderas to produce them. 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.

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