Full disclosure: Reporter Danielle Prokop is now also employed at NM Political Report, however was not employed at the time the report was released.
A serious concern for the University of New Mexico for the past few weeks has been transparency, and UNM says it’s making changes.
Earlier this month, the Attorney General's office sent a letter admonishing UNM’s “pattern and practice of neglecting their responsibility to allow access to public information.”
The document included 11 of the most recent complaints made against the University since 2015 regarding two transparency laws — Inspection of Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act.
One complaint was filed by New Mexico Political Report’s Andy Lyman for emails between top UNM officials, UNM counsel and other lawyers on a case in which a woman said the school retaliated against her for reporting sexual misconduct.
According to the UNM IPRA office the cost of giving electronic records to Lyman would be $586.60, meaning each page cost $0.35.
The report took UNM to task, the University can only charge the cost of downloading the records.
“NM charges $0.35 per page for electronic transmission of electronic records in excess of what is allowable under IPRA,” the report said. “By charging a requestor more than its actual costs, UNM effectively set up barriers to receiving copies of public records in contravention of IPRA.”
In addition to records costs, the report also mentioned slow response times and inadequate record searches that add to a “continued lack of transparency (which) appears to affect all aspects of UNM operations.”
For the month of September, UNM suspended the policy of charging for processing or delivering electronic records. Charges remain in effect for paper copies. In an emailed statement UNM Counsel Patrick Hart explained the changes to the policy.
“UNM received a complaint from the Attorney General that inquired into the amount charged for transmitting electronic copies produced in response to IPRA requests,” Hart said. “The Interim Records Custodian decided that this was an opportunity to take a fresh look at the amounts charged and President Stokes concurred.”
Christine Landavazo is a former Senior Operations Manager and is now Interim-Custodian of Public Records. John Rodriguez was the records custodian from 2015 until he left quietly this past summer.
UNM President Garnett Stokes addressed transparency in her State of the University address last week.
The Daily Lobo asked Stokes what the University is doing as a response to the report. Stokes said UNM has opened another position in the Office of the Custodian to address the rising requests for public records.
“We need to work on the education of our community about IPRA and institutional expectations for responsiveness,” Stokes said. “We’re going to look at the whole system, it’s in part understanding where things fall through the cracks.”
Danielle Prokop is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ProkopDani.