AG: New Mexico city violated open records, meetings laws

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A northern New Mexico city plagued by lawsuits and a former mayor charged with felony bribery and abuse of power is facing accusations that officials violated open records and open meetings laws.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced last week the city of Las Vegas and its police violated state open records and opening meetings laws, the Las Vegas Optic reports. In letters sent to city officials, the office warned that continued violations could result in criminal charges.

The decision comes after the Las Vegas Optic requested police records around multiple homicides throughout 2019 and 2018. The newspaper reported Las Vegas police denied two requests, citing exemptions that grant law enforcement agencies the right to withhold parts of records.

“We have some concern as to the legal basis for the City’s decision to withhold records,” Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp wrote to Las Vegas City Attorney Esther Marie Garduño Montoya. “We also conclude that the City violated (open records laws) by providing inadequate written explanations of its denials.”

Garduno-Montoya nor Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallegos immediately returned emails.

The AG’s office also issued determinations in several complaints about violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

The Optic filed a complaint in July after the Las Vegas City Council scheduled a meeting without giving the public the proper notice required under open meetings laws. The Attorney General's Office says the city also violated those requirements.

“It is unacceptable for any public body in New Mexico — including the City Council of the City of Las Vegas — to fail to provide the public with reasonable advance notice for any meeting,” Kreienkamp wrote.

Then Las Vegas Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron was charged last month with six felony bribery and abuse of power counts after prosecutors said she steered contracts to a construction firm owned by a man they allege she was romantically involved with.

The charges come after the attorney general's office last summer raided City Hall, Gurule-Giron's home and the home of Marvin Salazar, who prosecutors say is the mayor's boyfriend.

Gurule-Giron later resigned.

The charges followed several years of tumultuous local government in the New Mexico city of about 13,200 people that has been targeted by lawsuits from former workers over conflicts with Gurule-Giron.