On Monday, the nonprofit watchdog group Rio Grande Foundation announced that after 18 months of litigation, the City of Albuquerque had settled with the group through mediation after the group repeatedly tried to obtain public records.
“The voters of Albuquerque defeated Democracy Dollars in November of 2019, and the Rio Grande Foundation’s exposure of numerous flaws in the proposal played a pivotal role in the downfall of the ballot measure. Furthermore, the Foundation filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Tim Keller for his use of the City’s website (CABQ.gov) in which he specifically called for voters to approve Democracy Dollars. Mayor Keller’s actions were found to be in violation of city ordinance by the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices,” the Rio Grande Foundation wrote in a press release.
Following the ethics complaint filed by the group’s policy analyst Patrick Brenner, the Rio Grande Foundation requested a reasonable collection of text messages and emails sent to and from specific city employees leading up to the posting of Mayor Keller’s pleas on the city’s website to vote “YES.”
“On May 12, 2020, after exhausting all other avenues to obtain these public records, which included assistance from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government when Director Melanie Majors sent a letter of complaint to no avail, the Rio Grande Foundation filed a legal complaint in District Court against the city,” the release reads.
But the group was reportedly ignored by City Clerk Ethan Watson and the Custodian of Records Yvette Gurule when asked if the records had been deleted.
Through the mediation process, the Rio Grande Foundation says it received a “sizable settlement” from the City rather than improving its public records process or releasing records.