The Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) is a state law that provides the public with access to public information. As a part of New Mexico’s Sunshine Laws, citizens have the right to open access to state and local government information, with limited exceptions.
University of New Mexico students and other members of the community should feel encouraged to seek out public records information, as it allows us to keep a watchful eye over institutions and government entities. Full transparency between government and its citizens is not only important for those seeking out the information but also ensures governments are operating with honestly and with integrity. Keep ‘em accountable.
At the Daily Lobo, we’re aiming to give the public the tools to best understand what’s happening at the University.
The right to inspect public records allows members of the community to watch over governments and private entities. Supreme Court case Nixon v. Warner, 1978, states:
“[w]ritings coming into the hands of public officers in connection with their official functions should generally be accessible to members of the public so that there will be an opportunity to determine whether those who have been entrusted with the affairs of government are honestly, faithfully and competently performing their function as public servants.”
At UNM, any person can make a public records request to the Custodian of Public Records. The University provides an electronic method for individuals to use to request public documents and other information. The University requests that people use the portal in order to keep track of requests.
Excluding records that are exempt from the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, or otherwise prohibited from release by law, IPRA describes “public records” as:
"all documents, papers, letters, books, maps, tapes, photographs, recordings and other materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that are used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business, whether or not the records are required by law to be created or maintained,” according to NMSA Section 14-2-6(G).
Information that can be redacted from public records includes, but is not limited to
- information regarding physical or mental examinations
- letters of reference regarding employment
- personal information protected under HIPAA and FERPA
- information protected under “attorney-client privilege”
Records at the University are handled by a Records Custodian and often paralegals to determine if requested records are unable to be released.
According to UNM policy, the Custodian should acknowledge the public records request within three business days and will respond to within 15 business days. If the request is deemed burdensome or broad, an additional amount of time is allowed to comply with the request.
It is important for every person to know how to access all the information that runs their lives, that’s a democracy after all.
Amanda Britt is photo editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or @AmandaBritt__.