Attorneys in the Brenner lawsuit against Los Alamos County, from left, Kate Ferlic, Los Alamos County Attorney Alvin Leaphart and Tony Ortiz chat Friday afternoon outside Judge Greg Shafer’s courtroom in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
First Judicial District Judge Greg Shafer Friday afternoon agreed to give Los Alamos County 45 days to file a response to a motion for summary judgment entered by Patrick Brenner’s attorney Blair Dunn.
The case involves a request under the state Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) for all emails sent and received by Los Alamos County Councilors May 15, 2017. When Brenner received the County’s response, he maintained that not all emails from Councilor Susan O’Leary’s personal email account were produced by the County and then filed suit.
In April, Judge Shafer agreed to review all O’Leary’s emails in camera to determine if any of them should be considered public record and recently excluded all but two emails from the suit.
The motion says Judge Shafer ruled two emails are public record meaning that they are not exempt from disclosure. It says the deadline for Brenner to receive the emails was May 31, 2017 and that many of the requested emails were withheld. The two emails involved were between O’Leary and the County Clerk’s office pertaining to the recreation bond election.
“Public records not produced according to the law are considered improperly withheld and IPRA has been violated as a matter of law,” the motion states.
When the County’s attorney Tony Ortiz asked for more time to respond, Judge Shafer asked if Dunn would as a professional courtesy allow Ortiz an extra week, Dunn, who appeared by phone, agreed. Judge Shafer asked Councilor O’Leary’s attorney Kate Ferlic if she was sticking around for the conclusion of if she feels she is no longer needed in the case. Ferlic requested to stay in the case but to be excused from any other hearings that come up as and from responding to the motion for summary judgment. She added that in order to protect O’Leary’s interest, she would like to continue with a limited interest. Dunn said he had no position.
“That’s between her and her attorney. If she wants to spend the money to stay in the case, we don’t care,” Dunn said.
Ortiz said at this time, the County really doesn’t have any opposition.
“I think the Court and the parties can look at it again a little further down the road and decide whether or not Ms O’Leary wants to reconsider that but for right now there’s no opposition,” Ortiz said. Judge Shafer said he would allow Ferlic to remain in the case to take such action as necessary to protect her client’s interest. He said the emails reviewed in camera would be filed under seal by the Court and absent further order of the Court could only be reviewed by the Court and Court personnel.
Dunn later told the Los Alamos Reporter he can’t believe the County is wasting more taxpayers money “on a case they’ve already lost”. Los Alamos County does not comment on pending litigation.