Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Interesting Public Records Request

I did an interesting story about the state Department of Public Education sending Gov. Susana Martinez's political director lists of teachers' emails in the state. You can read that HERE

What makes it interesting to me is that the email was sent on a private email account by the Ed Department spokesman, Larry Behrens. And it was sent not only to political consultant Jay McCleskey, but to state officials, including Gov. Martinez's chief of staff and spokesman -- also on private e-mail accounts. Then Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera, who received a copy on her personal account, forwarded it to Martinez on a non-government account.

Both Behrens and McCleskey say this was just a routine request for public information. McCleskey said many political organizations of all persuasions makes such requests of state agencies all the time -- including the liberal Independent Source PAC, which obtained Behrens' email in the first place.

That's true. Reporters do too. But more than once I've had records requests denied by the records custodian of the particular agency on the basis that the agency does not maintain a list like the one I was seeking. The standard line is that the agency is not required to compile such a list for me.

Also usually such records requests are just between me and the records custodian, or sometimes the agency spokesman or spokeswoman. I don't think I've ever had information I was seeking forwarded to the governor's staff, the cabinet secretary, etc. (Such responses I've received are very formal and official, stating "In response to your request of June 12, 2012, etc. etc. ..." This wasn't the case here.)

Behrens said it was an "oversite" on his part to use his personal account for the records request. But that doesn't explain why he used non-government accounts for those officials included in the message.

Here's the document below:

New Mexico teacher lists