Two critics of the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative board are suing Rio Arriba County for redacting some personal information about Leo Marquez — who is the deputy county manager as well as co-op board chairman — from documents sought in a public records request.
Albuquerque lawyer A. Blair Dunn, who has been involved in other litigation against the co-op board, said his clients — David Neal and Cristella Trujillo-Neal — were seeking information on Marquez to see if there are possible conflicts of interest in his two roles.
Although the county did provide several documents to the Neals several month ago, it blocked out some of Marquez’s personal information on a county personnel form, including his phone number and street address.
Dunn said that violates the state Inspection of Public Records Act. Melanie Majors, the executive director of the Foundation for Open Government, agreed the records law has no provision to black out addresses or phone numbers from a requested document.
Marquez said Wednesday that he has not seen the lawsuit, filed Oct. 11 in state District Court and couldn’t comment. He said the county had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
Marquez’s personal phone number, like those of other board members, is posted on the co-op’s website.
The lawsuit asks a judge to require the county turn over Marquez’s unredacted address and phone number. The complaint also asks to compensate the Neals for unspecified damages proven at trial, attorneys’ fees and other relief “as the court deems just.”
The case has been assigned to state District Judge Bryan Biedschied. He’s also the judge in a larger case involving the Jemez Mountains board. Shortly after board member Bruce Duran was reelected without any opposition in June, the co-op board voted not to certify his election. It claimed Duran, who’s legally separated from his wife, was not living in the district from which he was elected.
The Neals’ records request with the county was filed Jan. 30.
Among the information the couple sought was documentation defining the county’s hiring policies and procedures, advertising concerning the position for which Marquez was hired, résumés of those who applied for the job and the reasons Marquez was selected.
Annabell Almager, Rio Arriba County’s records custodian who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, responded to the Neals’ request Feb. 7. She sent the Neals most of the documents they wanted but blacked out Marquez’s address and phone number.
Marquez was hired for the $85,000 a year county job on June 11, 2018.