Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan raised yet another new reason for his decision to change a long-standing policy of releasing E911 Center dispatch logs to the media voluntarily was brought forward at the Oct. 2 911 Board Meeting.
Among his claims were concerns about releasing social security numbers to the media, making sure media only got reports they “deserved” and additionally which reporters at the Rio Grande SUN would have access to the information. When he first announced media logs as a topic of discussion at the August meeting, Lujan said he was concerned for officer safety.
“This is a report that was just made to protect the general public’s information such as their social security numbers,” Lujan said referring to the new report. “This is not trying to hide anything from (the media), it’s protecting people’s information, and keeping the integrity of the investigation as far as not letting information out that shouldn’t go out.”
In a lengthy discussion, Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez raised questions about how and why the changes to the dispatch logs had been implemented. He asked if the changes had been reviewed by Rio Arriba County Attorney Adan Trujillo prior to their implementation. They had not.
“He already advised that what we did was not illegal,” Lujan said.
Trujillo previously said that he had not been consulted prior to Lujan’s decision to limit the information released to the SUN.
Although Trujillo said that there was nothing illegal about the decision to stop voluntarily sending dispatch logs to the media, agreed with Sanchez that ultimately the move would increase the workload at the 911 center.
Sanchez said the new truncated report would only result in the SUN sending a formal public records request for the original report. A report which Lujan said still exists.
“The (dispatch) logs themselves are not doctored, they’re not deleted, they are still intact,” Lujan said.
Lujan said he wanted to clarify that he was protecting the public by not releasing the information.
SUN Publisher Robert Trapp attended the meeting and at one point Lujan asked for his thoughts on the changes.
“I didn’t come here to answer questions,” Trapp said. “I came to see if the Board was going to support the sheriff’s decision to stop giving us the 911 logs. I’ve been doing this for 30 years I have never published a date of birth, driver’s license number or social security number. We have never named a rape victim whether they are a child or an adult. I understand you’re afraid that I have this information.”
Lujan interrupted to say he was not afraid.
“Pretty much everyone in here has been sued in some capacity,” Trapp said. “So your social security numbers and date of birth are on the front page of that suit, so everybody likes to argue privacy and identity theft and that’s not what this is about; this isn’t about identity theft at all, this is about withholding information from us.”
Lujan proposed working out a compromise with the SUN to get the paper what it “needed.”
“I need the original public record,” Trapp said.
Lujan said those records would have to be redacted because to release the social security numbers and driver’s license numbers would be illegal.
The Inspection of Public Records Act allows government officials to redact personal identifier information, but does not requirement them to do so.
When asked if the records releases were changed because he was upset about coverage he had received in the SUN, Lujan did not deny it.
“I’m not going to answer that question,” he said. “It really doesn’t pertain to it, I’ve already explained why we’re doing this and I’m not going to sit here and have an argument with you about it, OK?”
Sanchez asked directly if the truncated reports were going to continue to be sent to the media and if there needed to be any action taken by the Board, but Lujan said he did not need the input of the Board.
“This is not an action item,” Lujan said. “What we can do though is look into what we need to do to get (the media) information that they deserve or that they are legally entitled to.”
With little clarity, the Board moved on to other matters, including an executive session held during the August meeting. According to a previous SUN article, multiple people in the meeting disclosed they had illegally discussed dispatch logs during an executive session which was purportedly called to discuss a pending lawsuit.
“As a member of the Village of Chama Council obviously in executive session we discuss things in private,” Village of Chama Council Representative and Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matthew Gallegos said.
Gallegos said he had concerns about things said in executive session being leaked to the public. He wanted to know what, if any, confidentiality rules Board members may have broken by revealing the improper executive session discussion.
“When you go into closed session, you have to have pretty specifically identified and you’re not supposed to discuss anything outside of that,” Trujillo said. “So if there are discussions that take place in executive session that aren’t properly part of executive session, that shouldn’t happen.”
Trujillo was correct and the following day he received a determination letter from the Attorney General’s office stating that the E911 Board had violated multiple ascpects of the Open Meetings Act.
“We conclude that the Board’s closed session discussion violated (the Open Meetings Act) in several respects,” Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp wrote in the letter. “We recommend that the Board take whatever steps are possible and necessary in order to remedy this statutory noncompliance. We strongly recommend that the members of the Board thoroughly familiarize themselves with (the Open Meetings Act) and recommit the Board itself to better compliance with the statute.”
The letter states that the Board failed to have a properly-detailed agenda, likely discussed media logs in an executive session called for pending litigation, and that it was unclear whether or not the Board took any action regarding media logs.
Kreienkamp recommended that the Board reconvene, discuss the violations of statute, and make public any information that was improperly discussed in executive session.
The letter was sent to Trujillo, who has acted as legal counsel for the 911 center, but is not paid by the Dispatch Center. He said he had been offering his services at no cost for several years, but could only do so if that did not conflict with his duties as County attorney.
In response to the determination by the Attorney General’s Office, Trujillo said that he would pass the information along to the Dispatch Center and Lujan so they could take steps to remedy the violation.