BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed in June 2017 by former Los Alamos resident Patrick Brenner against Los Alamos County, according to documents obtained by the Los Alamos Reporter.
Brenner dismissed the case against the County and received $45,000 from the County under the terms of the settlement agreement.
Brenner filed a request under the state Inspection of Public Records Act for all emails sent and received by Los Alamos County Councilors May 15, 2017. The emails in question pertained to an email Brenner sent to County Councilors concerning the May 2017 $23 million general bond election with the subject line, “You People Continue to Disgust Me”. Brenner’s suit claimed that Council members provided some of the emails requested but that email sent from private email addresses and responses to those emails while performing public business were not provided to him.
In April 2018, then First Judicial District Judge Greg Shaffer agreed to review emails sent from former Councilor Susan O’Leary’s personal email account in camera to see if they were public record. In October 2018, Judge Shaffer ruled that all but two emails dated May 15, 2017 from O’Leary’s personal email account are not public records.
In October 2018, Brenner’s attorney Blair Dunn filed a motion for summary judgment stating that Judge Shaffer ruled two of O’Leary’s emails are public record meaning that they are not exempt from disclosure. The two emails involved were between O’Leary and the County Clerk’s office pertaining to the recreation bond election. Dunn maintained that public records not produced according to the law are considered improperly withheld and that IPRA had been violated as a matter of law.
The case was assigned to Judge Matthew Wilson after Judge Shaffer was not elected in November. Tony Ortiz, the attorney handling the case for Los Alamos County through the State Self-Insurer’s fund, challenged Judge Wilson and the case was then assigned to Judge Jason Lidyard before eventually reassigned to Judge Francis Mathew. In February both sides filed a motion for continuance of the Court-ordered settlement conference deadline.
The agreement signed July 31 states that it is not to be construed or represented as an admission of fault or wrongdoing and is based solely on the consideration of economic cost including the time and expense of litigation. Several court hearings were conducted during the two-year period and dozens of documents were filed by the parties before a pretrial conference was canceled July 26.