SFR's battle with Gov. Susana Martinez' office over a June 2012 public-records request has made headlines at Columbia Journalism Review, a key media industry publication.
Yesterday, CJR reporter Sarah Laskow interviewed SFR for a CJR story about our push to get emails sent from state officials' private accounts concerning public business.
SFR filed a request last June, under New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act, for emails sent from certain government officials' private accounts. SFR filed the IPRA request as a sort of test, since some of the emails had already been leaked and were in the public domain.
However, after a two-month delay, the governor's office provided only one email—and not one of the ones that had been leaked. Last August, SFR filed a formal complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, which is responsible for enforcing IPRA.
The AG investigated the matter and, on Feb. 5, wrote a letter to the governor's office stating that its response to SFR's IPRA request was insufficient. The AG's office gave the governor's office two options: (a) give SFR the requested records; (b) provide SFR with a valid explanation for denying us the records. Public bodies that violate IPRA may be liable for up to $100 per day in penalties (in this case, upwards of $18,000 since August).
SFR has also reported on how the Albuquerque Journal revised the tone of a story about the AG's letter.
In a quote to CJR, Ken Bunting, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, highlighted the complexity of the private-email-for-public-business issue:
“No one should be able to hide communications about government business simply by doing it on a private piece of digital equipment or on a private email account,” says Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. (Courts across the country have agreed with him.) But, he says, “Even an agency that’s got an obligation to produce the records may not have access [to private-accounts] to produce the record.”New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has maintained that emails concerning public business are public record, regardless of whether they're sent on public or private email account.