Brenner’s lawyer files motion in IPRA suit

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By Tris DeRoma

An attorney for former Los Alamos County resident Patrick Brenner fired back a countermotion to the Los Alamos County Council’s motion requesting a First Judicial Court judge examine a councilor’s emails before making them public.
Brenner is requesting the emails under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. Brenner is alleging Los Alamos County Council Vice President Susan O’Leary abused her position as a public official by using county email to destroy his reputation and business. He said she allegedly did so by releasing to the public an email he wrote to the county council on May 15 that expressed his displeasure over a $20 million general obligation bond sale county residents were going to vote on later that May.
In late May, the county held a countywide election on whether or not the county should raise $20 million through a general obligation bond sale to pay for five recreation projects. Brenner campaigned actively against the recreation bond.
He was puzzled as to why she and the council were requesting the review. “I’m not sure why she’s asking a judge to do that,” he said. “Her asking a judge to review her private email is no different from her reviewing her own private email. I couldn’t answer that question as to why she wants a judge to review it.”
So far, O’Leary has declined to release the other emails, out of what county attorneys said were her concerns for her personal privacy on matters she believes have nothing to do with county business.
A. Blair Dunn, Brenner’s attorney, said in his reply to the county’s request for a judge to do a private check of the rest of her May 15 emails before deciding to release them violates New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act. He wants them released publicly without a judge vetting them first.
“Public service comes with public responsibility, and that responsibility includes complying with statutory obligations that all government officials must meet,” Dunn said in his written reply to the county. “In this case, that means (O’Leary) was required to comply with IPRA by performing an appropriate search and then making release determinations.”
Dunn was also concerned that, after almost five months since Brenner filed his suit, O’Leary or the council as a whole have allegedly made no effort to produce the rest of O’Leary’s May 15 emails as required by IPRA.
“Defendants have admitted that such has not occurred here. While O’Leary may have public communications she desires to hide, and did so by using her personal account, the Defendants are not relieved from the statutory duty to the public,” Dunn said in his motion.
Brenner’s letter, the one that O’Leary made public, was very much against the recreation bond being passed.
Brenner admitted he wrote the letter when he was highly upset with the council for trying to shut down the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office.
“You are disgusting. Absolutely terrible...disgusting, deplorable despicable,” Brenner wrote of the council members. “You are a total embarrassment to Los Alamos and the State of New Mexico… SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME. PIGS.”
O’Leary allegedly released the letter from her county council address to local media and Los Alamos’ Future, a political action committee that supported the recreation bond vote, that she, as well as Councilor James Chrobocinski, was also a member of.
Brenner earlier this year lodged an ethics complaint against O’Leary and Chrobocinski with the Secretary of State’s office, citing the two, as councilors, had a conflict of interest by also advocating for the $20 million recreation bond as members of the PAC.
Earlier this year, an independent investigator hired by the county cleared both councilors of any wrongdoing.
The county’s request for a judge to review the emails to determine if they meet the requirements for release was made Sept. 26.
“...Do any of the emails sent from or received by O’Leary at her personal email address on May 15 2017 qualify as public records?... The standard of the court’s (private review) therefore, would be to evaluate whether each individual email meets this standard,” court documents prepared by attorneys for the county read in their request.