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County’s decision to defend IPRA suit is questionable

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BY HELEN M. MILENSKI
Guest Editorial

I love a bargain. These days everyone needs to be selective on where and how we spend our hard-earned dollars. It puzzles me how the local government in our corner of the world doesn’t seem to share this frugal sensibility, especially when it is our money they get to spend.

There are lots of examples I could point to, but recently there is the notorious case of Brenner vs. Los Alamos County Council regarding Councilor Susan O’Leary’s emails.

First off, let me say that I believe heartily that Patrick Brenner was firmly in the wrong when he wrote his infamous letter to the council, but I also think that the events that unfolded illustrated flaws in character all around. I got sick of hearing about this whole thing a long time ago and hoped that the end was in sight when I head a judgment was to be issued by the court. I think the judge felt the same way I did. I think we all felt it was going to go away, but alas we aren’t so lucky.

The judge ruled that there were two emails that should have been turned over in the original IPRA request, because they were not exempt and therefore the county technically lost. I have no issue with Susan O’Leary over this. I believe she should have been better at keeping her public and personal life separate, but either way, it should be over now.

Instead our county legal team wants to keep this case going. To do this they will have to rack up possibly $75,000 or more in legal expenses on a case that is already lost. If they chose to accept their defeat as it stands by the court’s ruling, they could pay the nominal $14,000 in legal fees and we can all move on.

We can easily see this money is bleeding out on a lost cause no one wants to pursue. Mr. Brenner has since moved away and is no longer pushing to pursue this issue any further, and Susan O’Leary herself indicated initially that this case was an awful waste of resources. I can’t see that she would want to carry on. Yet, somehow, our county’s legal team thinks that they should continue to rack up the bill, that isn’t going to be paid for by Mr. Brenner, but it will get paid by us.

While this may be a case to help our attorneys to keep a charge code to bill to, I question if this is really going to be a benefit to you or I, in the long run.