State Attorney General criticizes GOP records request

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By Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A request made by the New Mexico Republican Party under the state Inspection of Public Records Act drew fire Friday from Democratic Attorney General Gary King.

The party sent the request to King’s office two weeks ago seeking any emails and attachments concerning public business that were sent by King from his personal email addresses.

King said during a news conference that his office has delivered some of the requested documents and that he planned to review several thousands of his own emails over the next month to determine whether any involve public business as part of the request.

King called the request a “political ploy,” saying it came just four days after two Democratic state lawmakers asked his office to investigate whether employees in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration possibly violated state governmental conduct rules by conducting state business through personal emails.

“First and foremost, I want to let the Republican Party know that the attorney general’s office will not be intimidated and that we intend — as we always do — to carry out a thorough investigation of what was going on,” King said.

The Republican Party declined to respond to King’s allegation that the records request was meant to interfere with his investigation. However, party chairman Monty Newman said in a statement that King’s response makes clear that there’s no consensus among the branches of government on just what the rules are concerning private email accounts.

“The attorney general cannot say whether or not his private emails concern public business,” Newman said. “This points up the need for a legislative and regulation fix looking forward.”

In June, Martinez directed state workers to only use the government’s email system for conducting public business, a move that ended her administration’s practice of sending email through private accounts in some instances.

The directive came a week after it was disclosed that she and high-ranking administration officials had discussed state issues using email accounts connected to her political action committee. Critics said the practice was unacceptable, particularly for a governor who had touted the need for more governmental transparency.

The debate over personal emails was sparked when a union-funded political committee released an email that indicated the Public Education Department had created a list of non-union school teachers for the governor’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey, in response to a verbal request for public records. A department spokesman used personal email to send the list to McCleskey and administration officials, but has said that was an oversight.

King’s office is investigating whether the law was broken by the use of state resources to prepare the list.

The attorney general said the case it about more than just emails sent from personal accounts.

 “The Governmental Conduct Act basically says that government equipment and government funds are the people’s trust and that it’s our responsibility as elected officials and government officials to spend the people’s money on the people’s business,” he said. “So the question here is whether or not the people’s resources were spent on the people’s business or whether they were spent to forward a political agenda.”