The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization committed to helping the citizens students, educators, public officials, media and legal professionals understand, obtain and exercise:
- their rights and responsibilities under New Mexico “sunshine laws” – the Inspection of Public Records Act, Open Meetings Act and Arrest Record Information Act.
- their rights under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
- their First Amendment rights.
What We Believe
- The First Amendment belongs to everyone, and we are all enriched and empowered by it.
- The First Amendment gives us the right to criticize our government. But how can we exercise that right if we don’t know what our government is doing? Access to information is key.
- Bureaucracies are naturally secretive, and the public must constantly defend its right to know.
- Transparent, accountable government is not a partisan issue – it’s a core value in a democracy.
- NMFOG was founded in 1989 and began recruiting members in 1990.
- We are an educational non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
- Our funding comes from membership dues, private grants and an annual fundraising banquet.
- NMFOG is governed by a Board of Directors and has one employee, the Executive Director.
- NMFOG’s membership includes many journalists and lawyers, but also business owners, government officials, other non-profit organizations and engaged citizens.
What We Do
We educate, advocate and sometimes litigate in the name of open government. Sometimes this means assisting individual citizens, members of the press or even government officials who are denied information by local and state government. It also means strengthening and broadening freedom-of-information laws through legislation and litigation and its means educating the public and public officials about the letter and spirit of sunshine laws NMFOG works year-round to:
- Provide information about sunshine laws. The NMFOG Hotline dispenses information and advice to 400-500 callers per year. Submit your question to 505-764-3750, or [email protected].
- Educate citizens and public officials about open government. Our training seminars and Bootcamp help ensure that New Mexico’s robust sunshine laws are actually being read, understood and used in the real world. We also inform public officials if we believe they’re violating sunshine laws, and we keep our members and the broader public apprised of new developments and challenges in open government.
- Lobby for stronger freedom-of-information laws. During legislative sessions, NMFOG is at the Roundhouse to promote greater access and oppose new secrecy laws. Our landmark successes include a major overhaul of the Inspection of Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act in 1993, and the opening of legislative conference committees in 2009. FOG helped to pass legislation in 2011 to guarantee access to electronic versions of public records, a long-overdue modernization of the Inspection of Public Records Act and in 2013 FOG helped enact legislation requiring public bodies to post public meeting agendas 72 hours in advance.
- Argue for court decisions that uphold public access. New Mexico sunshine laws are strong, but the courts inevitably need to play umpire from time to time. As the leading expert on state sunshine law, NMFOG tries to weigh in whenever major freedom-of-information cases come before an appellate court. And on several occasions, we have initiated or joined open-government lawsuits in district court.
- Make sure the ‘fine print’ in records and meetings policies is citizen-friendly. State law lays out broad principles and minimum requirements, but local policy is where the rubber meets the road. NMFOG has worked with numerous agencies over the years to promote records and meetings policies that not only respect legal rights but also provide equitable, convenient and low-cost access to information and a positive customer-service experience for citizens.
- Recognize open-government champions. Since 2002, NMFOG has given the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award to people who advance open government in the areas of law, journalism, education, government and business. The annual awards luncheon also serves as our primary fundraiser.