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Editorial: Who's really full of it?

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By The Staff

The Optic has maintained for six months that state law requires the city of Las Vegas to release e-mails involving a quorum of the City Council.

Our argument was pretty simple: The state Open Meetings Act mandates that governing bodies discuss public business in the open. And that law includes all forms of communication, including e-mail.

But City Attorney Carlos Quiñones stood in the way of openness, as is too often the case at City Hall. He told the Optic that the city couldn’t find any e-mails on its server involving a quorum of the council.

Unfortunately for Quiñones, the Optic obtained 20 pages of such e-mails through another source. And Quiñones was copied in on many of those e-mails himself.

This revelation didn’t make the city attorney happy. He sent a confidential memo to council members, telling them that the release of the e-mails showed a council member couldn’t be trusted. He said the release violated the city’s code of ethics and his own legal opinion.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government contended that the city had to give up the e-mails, and we reported on that group’s statement in a story. Later, Quiñones told an Optic reporter that the story was full of it (except he didn’t use the word “it”).

Recently, the state attorney general’s office sided with the Optic in this matter and recommended the release of the e-mails in question. And the city did just that, although it argued that it still had the right to keep them secret because they came from the mayor’s private e-mail account. He cited law in Alaska and Iowa to bolster his case.

But we’re in New Mexico. And the AG here says that if the mayor has e-mails that relate to public business, he has to give them up.  

To be sure, attorneys can make mistakes, just like the rest of us. But what’s really offensive in this case is that Quiñones wouldn’t even consider information to the contrary. Instead, he dismissed it with an obscenity. And then he tried to bully the City Council — our elected representatives — to keep secret documents that are really meant to be public.

Mayor Tony Marquez deserves his share of blame in this situation as well. He should never have put up with an attorney intimidating the council. And he should have volunteered the e-mails in the first place because the council shouldn’t have been discussing city business outside of announced meetings.

Marquez promised a transparent administration. With the help of Quiñones, he has broken his word — over and over.