Complying with a ruling from Second Judicial District Court Judge Lisa Chavez Ortega, the Office of the Auditor (OSA) has released 1,800 pages of unlawfully withheld public records. Judge Chavez Ortega ruled earlier this year the records were public, but the Court stayed production of the records pending the conclusion of a resolution of damages.
Nancy Henry first requested the records in 2019. Ms. Henry filed the lawsuit after making six unsuccessful Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests to the OSA Defendants in 2019 through 2020. The request was for documents generated through a Special Investigations Division investigation into complaints of waste, fraud or abuse, at the State Livestock Board (NMLB).
The OSA denied her request for the public records by simply stating they had “no responsive” records. The plaintiff also insisted that the OSA did not release any report in relation to examination of the NMLB.
Following an in-camera review, Judge Chavez Ortega said all of the requested records were “indeed public records.” stating the agency deliberately withheld the records, violating IPRA six times.
The Judge awarded attorney’s fees of $43,000, and awarded Ms. Henry $1 a day for the delay approximately $7000, plus costs, $1100.
The case is Nancy Henry v Office of the State Auditor, Bernadet Martinez, Records Custodian D-202-CV-2020-01559. Thomas Grover was the attorney of record.