Thursday, March 11, 2010

Secretary of State Herrera loses battle over letter.

Secretary of State Herrera did what she could to keep A. J. Salazar's letter of resignation secret from stakeholders. When you read the letter, link, you will understand why.

Her effort was doomed from the start; not only is it a public record, subject to law, but a copy was already in the hands of the Journal. She should have just surrendered it to anyone who asked.

She didn't though, and as a consequence, has been subject of widespread criticism and derision, and the letter is out now anyway.

You now have the opportunity to read the letter yourself, and decide for yourself, whether there was ever any real doubt about whether it was a public record subject to the NMIPRA.

The NMIPRA does provide for redaction. There are names named in the letter. I am not a lawyer; I don't know whether the names should be redacted or not. But even if they should have been redacted, the redaction would be limited to a black line through the name, not the suppression of the entire letter.

There are a number of problems raised here. Most of the problems exist because public servants can hide the truth according to their whim, and without consequence.

Even if this got to court, and Herrera was determined to have not followed the law, there would be no penalty for her personally. Even if penalties are levied, they are levied against tax payers and not against the individual politician or public servant who has secreted records in violation of the law.

We need to reform the process for redacting and surrendering public records. The notion that the people with the most to hide, are permitted to redact, or hide, records is nonsensical. It is akin to letting the accused in any trial, decide which evidence will or will not be submitted to the jury.

Self redaction of (incriminating) public records, is utterly unjustifiable.

photo Mark Bralley

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