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Daily Lobo News Editor files lawsuit against UNM records custodian

Editor’s note: Lily Alexander is the incoming editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. She was not involved in the reporting or editing process of this story.

The News Editor of the Daily Lobo, Lily Alexander, has filed a lawsuit against Rob (Robert) Tafoya, the Custodian of Public Records at the University of New Mexico for failure to provide UNM Police Department's weapons inventory on March 5, 2024.

The legal complaint asks for the courts to enforce the Inspection of the Public Records Act (IPRA) by requiring UNMPD to provide the weapons inventory.

Alexander entered litigation with attorney Laura Ives. The complaint cites a 2015 court order that required the Albuquerque Police Department to provide their weapons inventory after initially denying a journalist’s request.

“The law is there and says that anyone, (including) a member of the public,  has access to records that are public under that law. So that includes (the Daily Lobo) and transparency is really important for the University since they have so much money and control. Taxpayer money goes towards UNM and UNMPD, so the people have a right to know what they've got,” Alexander said.

IPRA is a New Mexico State Law that makes public records available to the public. To request a public record, one files an IPRA request.  A Records Custodian is who facilitates these requests, according to Melanie Majors – executive director of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. UNM and UNMPD are both public bodies that are held to IPRA.

“The Inspection of Public Records Act is one of the laws that the legislature has enacted to allow the public access to its government – the public's right to know. And under the inspection of (the) Public Records Act, everyone is allowed to look at a record,” Majors said.

On Nov. 27, Alexander filed an IPRA request for UNMPD’s weapons inventory. The following day Tafoya denied the request, citing the records were privileged to law enforcement.

“Requested records consisted of privileged law enforcement information whose publication could reveal specific vulnerabilities, risk assessments or tactical emergency security procedures that could be used to facilitate a terrorist attack,” NMSA 1978 § 14-2-1-A (7) reads.

On Dec. 11, Alexander provided the 2015 court order to Tafoya to review. He, again, denied the IPRA request on Dec. 15.

“In the original case – Judge Malott’s case – he was pretty succinct about his ruling. I wonder why the University thinks that that ruling does not apply to them. But we will see what happens if this case continues to court,” Majors said.

Tafoya did not respond to a request for an interview. Cinnamon Blair – Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for the University – responded with a written comment to the Daily Lobo.

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“The University is committed to compliance with the Inspection of Public Records Act and our policies developed in this regard.  We, however, do not comment on pending litigation,” Blair wrote.

If Alexander graduates from the University while the case is still in litigation, her graduation will not impact the court proceedings, Majors said.

“Based on this and what we've seen from other such cases, it appears that (UNMPD) should be able to release the document. They tied the exception to records that could be used to facilitate the planning or execution of a terrorist attack. I don't see how that exception applies here,” Majors said.

The letter containing the complaint is still in transit. Once it is formally delivered a deadline will be set for UNM to respond to the legal complaint, according to Ives.

Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at on Twitter @maddogpukite

Maddie Pukite

Maddie Pukite is the 2023-2024 editor of the Daily Lobo. 


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