We have some friendly, experienced and as always, unsolicited advice for Española Mayor Javier Sanchez: write the check.
Charles Arasim brought an Inspection of Public Records Act lawsuit against the city after former city clerk Anna Squires withheld public documents for 406 days. We had much experience with Squires’ poor records response times and eventual production while she was clerk. Rio Grande SUN staffers experienced this illegal behavior as fairly typical.
Arasim requested on Oct. 6, 2017 an investigatory memorandum and video. Squires did not produce the records within 15 days, as per state law. Arasim asked the court to force Squires to comply.
Following a writ of mandamus, ordering the release, Arasim received the records Feb. 5, 2018, albeit in redacted form.
In a summary judgment motion victory District Judge Jason Lidyard found for Arasim and instructed the city to pay his attorney’s fees and costs of $22,814.39. In a shocking but refreshing and welcomed action Lidyard also assigned punitive damages of $50 per day for the 406 days, $20,300. The Act allows up to $100 per day.
So the city (that’s taxpayers) is on the hook for $43,114.39. The city appealed July 11 to the state Court of Appeals. It is not cheap to appeal a case to a higher court. The city will pay at least as much as the punitive fees to brief, file motions and possibly argue the case in front of the Court of Appeals.
The city lost, the judge spanked them, rightly so. Sanchez needs to reel in the attorneys, who are the only ones who will gain from this lawsuit. Pay the fee, maybe learn something, share some knowledge with City Hall department heads, who are the larger problem, and avoid this expense in the future.
Prove Arasim’s lawyer Thomas Grover wrong. Grover said when he won the case he didn’t think the secretive atmosphere would change in City Hall. Sanchez can change that environment.