The city of Santa Fe was implored to comply with a public records request seeking documentation surrounding the removal of the Don Diego De Vargas statue in a recent letter sent by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The letter references a February Inspection of Public Records Request made by former Santa Fe Fiesta President Melissa Mascareñas, seeking “any and all documents showing payment to the contractor for services rendered involving the removal and storage of the DeVargas statue.”

In the letter, sent by Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp, the Attorney General’s Office states it does not agree with the city’s “hyper-technical interpretation” of the request and recommended the city provide Mascareñas the documentation it had on hand when the request was made.

The Don Diego De Vargas statue was removed from its pedestal on the Santa Fe Plaza in June 2020 for “safekeeping” by Mayor Alan Webber, but, in February, the statue was found in the backyard of the contractor who removed it.

Webber stated publicly he believed the statue was being stored at a city facility and was misled by city staff, but former parks director John Muñoz said Webber knew of the statue’s destination and was “scapegoating” city employees.

Mascareñas said she was interested in when purchase documents were submitted and whether it was before Webber signed an emergency proclamation calling for the statue’s removal.

“I want to know how much they paid for the vendor to be there in the dead of night to yank de Vargas off that pedestal,” Mascareñas said.

According to the letter, the city responded to Mascareñas’ request on March 8, starting it failed to identify any applicable records and considered the matter closed.

The Attorney General’s Office got involved, but the city again stated it did not have any applicable records.

The city later clarified that while it did have an invoice for payment in its possession when Mascarena’s submitted her request, it didn’t pay the contractor until March 23.

The city argued because it had no records “showing payment,” per Mascareñas’ request, it did not have to provide the invoice, which the Attorney General’s Office considered “narrowly defined.”

“If it has not done so already, we recommend that the City provide Ms. Mascareñas the payment invoice that it held on the day it received her records request,” the letter reads. “Even if the City’s quite narrow interpretation of her request was plausible from a strictly grammatical perspective, we think that it was not the most reasonable interpretation and, in any case, clearly not a best practice.”

The Attorney General’s Office suggested the city take a “more inclusive approach” to interpreting public records requests in the future.

City spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in an email the city has fulfilled the records request as recommended by the Attorney General’s Office, including proof of payment for the removal of the statue in June 2020.

He also wrote the statue is being stored “in a safe city facility.”

But Mascareñas said she has since received documents showing the city relocated the De Vargas statue to a city facility but nothing for the statue’s June 2020 removal.

A review of the invoice does show a request to relocate the statue to a city facility on Feb. 24.

She said she has also submitted a complaint to the state’s Auditor’s Office.

Mascareñas’ determination is the second IPRA dust-up between the Attorney General’s Office and the city in recent days. The Attorney General’s Office also found in June the city potentially improperly responded to a pay stub request by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Elections.

(10) comments

Khal Spencer

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Stefanie Beninato

According to sworn testimony by Liz Roybal, head of three of the city's recreational facilities, she has had notebooks on patrons in her office for over 16 years including one on me. When I asked about other notebooks through an IPRA request, I was told none were there. Two days ago Ms Roybal made the sworn statement above. You can be sure I immediately submitted another IPRA request. Mine consists of 20 year old documents that were supposed to be permanently sealed under a federal court settlement agreement and emails sent by staff making false accusations based on hearsay but because they were internal memos, Ms Roybal insisted I did not get to know about them or respond. And she testified that the city attorney's office reviews these emails to see if it could build a case to terminate a patron's (mine) use of recreational facilities. It is not just Webber who is dishonest. The three city employees IMHO committed perjury and I can and will be able to prove it. Time for serious housekeeping at city hall.

Lee Vigil

Webber lies all the time whether they're lies of omission or outright lies. The guy has no shame and no conscience.

Ralph Arellanes

Webber is a complete liar. He has used minion groups like the Three Sisters, Red Nation & now NM LULAC to carry out his lies and his agenda. We must stop them all!!

Vince Czarnowski

I'm so happy there are people out there who actually care about the statue and are willing to uncover Webber's devious actions. Please keep on doing this. The more you dig, the more you're going to find what a despicable character Webber is.

Beverly Duran

Thank you Melissa! If the local people do not take a stand, all will be lost in our culture. It’s time to pull our heads out of the sand. No, this will not go away. It will get worse and it has!!

Richard Reinders

More deceit by the City and Mayor Webber, if what Webber did was on the up and up why all the drama to release records. Webber there is an old saying "when your in a hole , stop digging"

Barbara Harrelson

The De Vargas statue was NOT in the Santa Fe Plaza; it was in Cathedral Park, one block from the Plaza.

Maria Bautista

Correct - Also Michelle Lujan Grisholm provided the vehicle and State Employees for Webber's use, he was the First Vandal!

Beverly Duran

And? To the local people the whole area was considered the plaza area. But thanks for correcting us on something so trivial compared to the actual point.

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