Flash forward to 2014, and members of the public who have requested public records are again facing illegal obstruction by Northern New Mexico College’s Administration. Public records requests sent in May and June have yet to be fulfilled by NNMC Administration, though State Law requires fulfillment within 15 days. Last week, Northern’s Communications and Marketing department sent out a press release explaining they simply did not have the staff (though required by law) or the resources (though required by law) to fulfill public records requests in a timely fashion, if at all. (See press release in full below.) The press release was covered by Academe, published by the American Association of University Professors, which is also currently investigating violations of Academic Freedom at Northern.
In addition, at least one member of our community who sent in requests for public records received a reprimand from the attorney contracted by NNMC’s Administration. Aha! This letter stands as explanation for the legal fees referred to in NNMC’s press release. NNMC is paying for frivolous lawsuit threats to members of the public for daring to request public documents via the prescribed Inspection of Public Records Act of the State of New Mexico.
The same contracted attorney, Tony F. Ortiz of Santa Fe, New Mexico followed with another letter, which threatened “legal avenues” should public comments and opinions “harm the College and its funding sources.” Such a threat against protected speech in writing is quite surprising from a licensed professional. (Tony F. Ortiz lists himself as currently practicing at Scheuer, Yost, and Patterson, P.C., though that firm was disbanded in December of last year. )
Practicing attorneys are well aware that New Mexico has a strong “Anti-SLAPP” statute that was enacted in 2001 (N.M. STAT. ANN. §§ 38-2-9.1 – 38-2-9.2). SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” The New Mexico Anti-SLAPP law explicitly and affirmatively protects members of the public from the actions that Tony F. Ortiz and NNMC's Administration have threatened in writing. The New Mexico Anti-SLAPP statute recognizes that the filing of such lawsuits is “intended to punish members of the public for criticizing or opposing actions that the plaintiff wants a public body to take.” It is clear that “the usual objective of such a lawsuit is not necessarily to win, but rather to silence one’s opponents.”
The NNMC Study Group encourages that you read the letter to a member of our community from attorney Tony F. Ortiz and NNMC carefully. The individual who received the letter (posted below in full) was removed from NNMC this semester, though she had a stellar teaching record. While it is laughable that NNMC’s Administration believes it can regulate the use of the words "we" and "our College," such threats are intended to chill public participation in the practices, policies, and procedures of our publicly-funded College. Such a letter is intended to silence members of the public. Such a letter is an embarrassment to our community, to higher education, and to the students who are learning the critical importance of the democratic process and informed public participation.
The community is not silenced by NNMC Administration’s obstruction of the law in its refusal to release public records. The community is not silenced by NNMC Administration’s threats against protected speech. We love our college too much to witness its continued destruction in silence. The community will continue to hold the Administrators in our public institution accountable and we will continue to make public any violations of State Law. The local and national media have done so as well. See the “NEWS” link for further coverage of issues at Northern New Mexico College.
*Special Note: The NNMC Study Group wishes to point out that while members of NNMC's Administration (including President Nancy "Rusty" Barcelo) and attorney Tony F. Ortiz have of late used the words libel, slander, and misinformation, they have yet to identify any actual instance of the libel, slander or misinformation.
 See “NFOIC awards FOI Fund grant in New Mexico public records suit,” August 27, 2010. http://www.nfoic.org/nfoic-awards-foi-fund-grant-new-mexico-public-records-suit
 Full commentary on NNMC’s press release here: http://academeblog.org/2014/07/12/update-from-northern-new-mexico-college/ Article on AAUP’s investigations of Academic Freedom violations here: http://nnmcstudygroup.weebly.com/uploads/1/7/6/4/17644239/aaup_rio_grande_sun_june.pdf
 See the State Law and Guidelines for Compliance here: http://www.nmag.gov/consumer/publications/inspectionofpublicrecordsactcomplianceguide2009
 See the website of Attorney Tony Ortiz listing Scheuer, Yost, and Patterson, PC 2006-present: http://tonyfortizlaw.com/about/ and December 2013 closing of the firm announced here: http://www.scheueryostandpatterson.com/
 For a brief explanation of Anti-SLAPP, see “New Mexico Court of Appeals holds that Anti-SLAPP Statute Does Not Apply to Judicial Proceedings,” Emil J. Kiehne, March 14, 2013. http://nmappellatelaw.com/new-mexico-court-of-appeals-holds-that-anti-slapp-statute-does-not-apply-to-judicial-proceedings/
 Coverage of the removal of Instructor Annette Rodriguez available at: http://www.riograndesun.com/articles/2014/07/03/news/doc53b48cb23cedb403711101.txt
 See links to media coverage here: http://nnmcstudygroup.weebly.com/news.html