You have a fundamental right to know what your government is doing, and that includes the right to inspect public records and the right to attend public meetings.
NMFOG works to make sure these rights are strong and available to everyone. Sometimes, this means assisting individual citizens who are denied information by local or state government. It also means strengthening and broadening freedom-of-information laws through legislation and litigation. And it 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 505-663-6401, 505-764-3750 or [email protected].
- Educate citizens and public officials about open government. Our training seminars 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 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.
Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
– James Madison