GAO Files Suit against New Mexico AG to Compel Release of Records Detailing Work with Private Parties, Including Activists and Activist Attorneys General
Energy Policy Advocates reveals one of AGO’s secrecy pacts attempting to contract away the public’s rights
Albuquerque, NM, June 15, 2020 – Today, public interest law firm Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. (GAO) filed suit against New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), on behalf of the government-transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA). AG Balderas has refused to release public documents and information, keeping secret his work and even contracts with outside activists, the tort bar and other state AGs to advance private ideological, political and financial agendas.
Records obtained by EPA show the New Mexico AGO is coordinating with other AGs on how best to deny EPA’s requests for public documents and information about their work. AGO ham-fistedly – in some cases cartoonishly – redacts documents, blacking out, e.g., everything other than a claim that a contract is “privileged and confidential”; meanwhile, records obtained by EPA show these are no such thing, but merely deals trying to circumvent open records laws. Demonstrating this, EPA has released one of these sweeping pacts to litigate “climate.”
In New Mexico the AGO is specifically commanded by law to enforce the Inspection of Public Records Act but is now holding itself above the law it is obligated to enforce. In so doing, AGO attempts to avoid New Mexico citizens’ right to the sunlight of public disclosure by entering self-serving agreements to keep the secret operations hidden from disclosure to the public.
EPA has learned that one of these attempted secrecy pacts arranges for state AGOs to serve a supporting role for private tort firms pursuing municipalities in “climate nuisance” litigation. This suggests the prospect that their details have also been shared with the tort bar, and others. Other records obtained by EPA and hidden by AGO reveal a campaign with outside activists to impose the equivalent of the “Green New Deal” on the country but through the courts.
“Most of the public records covered by today’s Inspection of Public Records Act suit were either completely withheld or substantially blacked out. Some of these withholdings are absurd and others EPA has already proved were improper,” said GAO attorney Neal Cornett, who filed the suit with local counsel Pat Rogers of Albuquerque. “AGO is blacking out entire secrecy pacts despite previous judicial findings that an AGs’ pact very similar to those we’ve learned the New Mexico AGO has entered was not a valid common interest agreement and not privileged.
“The public has a right to know how public dollars and the Attorney General’s Office are being used to advance private political agendas, and what contracts it enters in the public’s name,” said Cornett. “New Mexico’s AGO has engaged in unlawful and often clumsy behavior to hide precisely what they are up to, which today’s suit seeks to rectify.”
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to transparency in public officials’ dealings on matters of energy, environment and law enforcement