Editorial: State deserves transparent government
June 26, 2012
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been a loud and proud supporter of government transparency.
That's why we're surprised to hear she's been in the middle of recent media reports questioning her actions related to public records.
First it was revealed the governor and other high-ranking administration officials discussed state business using email accounts connected to her political action committee, The Associated Press reported.
Then, a disgruntled former cabinet secretary claimed the governor's chief of staff, sometime last year, directed the use of private email accounts in an attempt to avoid disclosure via public records requests.
Keith Gardner, the governor's chief of staff, said former Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez's allegations were "completely false."
On Monday, Gov. Martinez directed state employees to use only the government's email system for conducting public business.
While the governor contends there's no state law requiring the directive she issued Monday, she said it will ensure "continued confidence in government," AP reported.
It should be pointed out that emails from government officials about public business are public records — no matter whether they come from public or private email accounts.
The problem with sending emails and text messages about public business from private electronic devices is public records custodians may not have access to the private devices. And the records custodians cannot provide public information they don't know about.
We also become concerned anytime a governor starts talking about how law does not "require" something.
Especially this governor, who has been such a proponent of the state's "sunshine portal" website and other government-transparency issues.
Hopefully, the ex-cabinet secretary's allegations are a lie and the issues that led to Monday's directive from the governor were an unfortunate oversight.
New Mexico deserves the transparent government Martinez has often trumpeted.
We do appreciate the governor's directive and applaud the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government for helping bring the issue to the governor's attention.
"This action ... is a huge step forward for government transparency, for which the governor deserves credit," said Gwyneth Doland, FOG's executive director.
"We urge other government agencies and officials to adopt similar policies to ensure the public's business is done in the open."