UPDATED: Governor's Office responds to the lawsuit below
Rick May, a longtime Beltway Republican and former cabinet secretary for Gov. Susana Martinez, filed a lawsuit against the governor's office today over public records.
May's complaint dates back to April, when he filed an extensive Inspection of Public Records Act with Martinez' office and Department of Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Tom Clifford.
May requested public documents related to how the New Mexico Finance Authority's board of directors fired him as CEO in fall 2012 following a scandal at the agency involving a faked internal audit.
Former comptroller Greg Campbell was the only one found guilty of wrongdoing, but May took the fall, criticized for being "asleep at the wheel" in a special audit commissioned by State Auditor Hector Balderas. May claims he was scapegoated by a state auditor with a conflict of interest and an NMFA board that never gave him a chance to explain his side of the story (for more detail, read this July cover story).
May made the public records requests on April 10. Since then, he says he hasn't received one document from Martinez or DFA, though both have given themselves several deadline extensions along the way. IPRA requires government entities to respond within 15 days of a request unless it's deemed "broad and burdensome." Still, the law compels government to respond as quickly as possible.
The penalty for violation is up to $100 a day from the day an IPRA request isn't properly fulfilled.
"After waiting 174 days for any response from the governor or DFA, we have received nothing but excuses," May's lawyer, Steven Farber, says in a statement. "Not one email, text message, memo, document, or even piece of paper has been made for public inspection."
In an email, governor's office spokesman Enrique Knell called the suit "frivolous" and writes that "the motivation behind the lawsuit is suspect." Knell writes that May's request was "easily the most sweeping IPRA request that we've received" and that it's been taking his office "significant time to review the thousands of pages of documents" (a copy of May's IPRA, which totals 12 pages, is posted below).
"In fact, our administration tried to work with the requester and offered to make some documents available immediately, and then produce the documents as they became available," Knell writes. "That offer was declined."
Farber, however, says Knell's statement is a "blatant attempt to mislead the press." Neither the governor's office nor DFA have ever made an offer "to provide public records that was turned down by either Rick May or me," Farber writes in an email.
He adds that all communications between him and the governor's office since April were limited to "form email responses" sent every month extending their own deadlines (see Exhibit 2 of the lawsuit, posted below).
"I hardy think that sending form letters once a month stating that more time or review is needed is any kind of good faith correspondence," Farber writes.
DFA didn't immediately respond to May's lawsuit.
May joins several others suing state government for public records troubles, including the Foundation for Open Government, Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico in Depth and SFR. The governor's response to SFR's lawsuit, which names her office for violating open records laws, is due Monday.
Read Rick May's statement and lawsuit below: