The only thing transparent about a southern New Mexico lawmaker’s attempt to obscure public records from the public is the adverse effect it would have on citizens. And so it goes with SB93, the brainchild of Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. This ill-conceived piece of legislation, pre-filed in advance of the 60-day legislative session, would exempt the applications of prospective government employees from public scrutiny — in some cases, the applications would apparently be secret forever. Papen’s bill would add yet another exception to disclosure under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), the state’s sunshine and transparency law that allows the public to see how government works and how its money is being spent. The proposed bill provides that the names and resume of any “finalist for the head of any agency, state institution or political subdivision of the state shall be made available prominently on the entity’s website no fewer than seven days prior to the final decision to hire the individual.”
That’s cold comfort, at best, for fans of transparent government.
The Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande Chapter is alarmed by, and staunchly opposed to, new restrictions on the news media’s access to the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque. A memorandum to members of the media issued June 2 by Chief Judge Nan G. Nash and Clerk of the Court James Noel requires “at least twenty-four (24) hours advanced notice to the Clerk of the Court of their desire to report on any matter within or regarding the Court. Members of the media shall enter the Courthouse through its main entrance and through Court Security. Upon entrance, members of the media shall proceed to Court Administration to ‘sign-in’ with the Clerk of the Court and to verify that they provided twenty-four hours advanced notice to the Court.”
The rules not only apply to photographers, broadcasters and film crews but even newspaper reporters carrying nothing more than a notepad and pen. We appreciate the need for security at a courthouse where many of us work each day.
The Rio Grande Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, made up of working reporters across New Mexico, responds with concern to the introduction of HB 532 in the New Mexico state legislature. As reporters, many of us rely on citizens to raise concerns about what they feel are misdeeds in the public sector. We feel that our sources should be able to talk to us without fear of retaliation or retribution. This is exactly what the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act is intended to do. But this is under threat as part of proposed legislation by state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Bernalillo.