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Records flap spurs measure

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Gov. Richardson’s order of his office records sealed for eight years prompts move to repeal old law

By Carol A. Clark

A bill to reverse a 1967 loophole allowing former elected officials to submit documents to the State Records and Archives Center without the public having the ability to review those records was introduced in the legislature Friday.  
Freshman Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque presented House Bill 368, which would make sure outgoing officials can’t seal the public documents along with the personal files they donate to the state archives.
“It is possible that the documents submitted to the center would be otherwise subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA),” Gentry said during a news conference at the Roundhouse Friday morning.  
Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties voiced strong support for the measure.
“Yes indeed I think this is a good bill – I do not see any reason why governors should be able to protect their documents for eight years,” Wallace said.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson ordering his office records sealed for eight years is what spurred Gentry to introduce the measure.  
“I believe people have a fundamental right to review what their government is doing,” Gentry said.
If the measure is successful, it will apply to Richardson’s records, it can be
retroactive because there are no criminal penalties attached to the bill, he said.  
Gentry explained that the documents in question were produced while the public official was in office and acting in a professional capacity.
Richardson said earlier this week that he shouldn’t be singled out in that he sealed his records to protect the confidentiality of his conversations in the governor’s office. He said, “every other governor has sealed his records and I’m doing the same.”
Newly elected republican Gov. Susana Martinez has stated that she won’t attempt to seal her records when she leaves office.
Nine republican representatives, one democrat and an independent have stepped forward to support the bill.
House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé, has assigned HB 368 to the House Judiciary, and the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committees for review.