BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County resident James Whitehead has sued the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDG&F) under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
The complaint relates to an April 23 request by Whitehead to inspect all electronic records regarding the NMDG&F Big Game Draw system results and applications for the years 2015 through 2019. Whitehead specifically requested the detailed success draw results, names and addresses of all successful applicants, units applied for and units drawn. He also requested the policy and procedure documents that govern the Big Draw as well as the software involved including the source code.
Court records indicate NMDG&F responded the Whitehead indicated that the Department does not give out addresses of license buyers pursuant to the Cox Rule. Whitehead in turn asked “how do we as citizens verify that Game and Fish are conducting the draw fairly?”
NMDG&F responded to Whitehead in a letter stating that the material he has requested is “excessively burdensome or broad” and that the Department will need addition time to compile material but would have then ready by June 10.
The letter stated that the source code for the software falls under Rule 11-508 of New Mexico Rules of Evidence and that NMDF&G would provide the state the license holder is from. That rule provides that “unless upholding the privilege will tend to conceal fraud or otherwise work an injustice, a person or entity owning a trade secret has a privilege to refuse to disclose, or to prevent others from disclosing, the trade secret”.
“Upon receipt of these records it shall be made clear that the draw is conducted fairly,” the letter said.
Whitehead’s complaint filed by attorneys Marshall J. Ray and Blair Dunn alleges NMDG&F has not provided a citation for denial of the addresses of the license buyers. It asks for declaratory judgment that denial of the public records requested by Whitehead is a violation of IPRA, or if necessary a writ of mandamus requiring NMDG&F to produce the requested records. Whitehead is also asking for statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
The suit is in the First Judicial District Court and has been assigned to Judge Jason C. Lidyard.