SANTA FE – New Mexico legislative leaders rarely, if ever, communicate by work email and keep private the details of breakfast and dinner appointments with industry and special interest groups, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
The Legislature’s four top leaders provided their appointment calendars and hundreds of emails from the first week in February in response to the records request.
Nearly all of the emails came from constituents; only three were outgoing messages. A small share of the work-related calendar appointments included names of individuals, and none described the content of conversations.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez provided her daily calendar but delayed responding to the request for emails beyond the 15-day deadline for immediate inspection of records, saying her office was busy reviewing legislation during the recent legislative session.
Lawmakers in every state have adopted laws requiring most government meetings and records to be open to the public. But in some states, lawmakers have exempted themselves from complying.
The AP sent open-records requests to the top lawmakers and the governor, seeking copies of their daily schedules and emails from government accounts for the week of Feb. 1-7. The request was met with more denials than approvals.
In New Mexico, open-government advocates have been pushing for more transparency, but the focus has been primarily on the accountability of lawmakers with regards to their campaign-finance records and calls for changes that would shine more light on where political donations originate.
Open-records requests were made to the top-ranking Republican and Democrat in each chamber of the Legislature.
House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Brian Egolf was the only lawmaker who declined to release some emails. The Santa Fe Democrat withheld three emails under an exemption for correspondence with staff at the Legislative Council Service, which helps lawmakers draft legislation.
Egolf was the only lawmaker to use his work email account to send messages. He responded twice to emails from constituents, assuring one that he would attempt to restore funding for cash welfare benefits and clarifying to another his stance on youth curfews and hate-crimes legislation. He also sent a clerical request to legislative staff.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, a Republican farmer from Portales, said he generally does not use email and prefers to work by phone with paper and pen handy.
“I call people or I put something down on a piece of paper to sign,” Ingle said. “If somebody wants me, they call me on the phone. They talk directly to the horse’s mouth.”