Invoices show LVCS spends tens of thousands responding to records requests

Invoices show LVCS spends tens of thousands responding to records requests

From the Las Vegas Optic

In the six-month period between Oct. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, Las Vegas City Schools spent more than $38,000 in legal fees either responding to records requests, researching laws, redacting requests, pushing back against requests and complaints, or responding to the attorney general, according to invoices obtained by the Optic.

Fees charged by law firms hired by LVCS ranged from $95 for a review of a records request, to $418 to work on a response to the attorney general about a complaint filed against the district, to $1,216 to “identify and designate legal bases for withholding” or redacting records.

New Mexico law allows anyone to request records from government bodies, like a public school district. The process is designed to be straightforward: A person requests the documents they’d like to see by filing a request citing the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA, and the governmental body has three days to acknowledge that it received the request, and up to 15 days to provide the records.

Each governmental body must designate at least one person as the records custodian, and that custodian is responsible for reviewing requests, responding to them, locating the records sought, and ultimately getting the records to the person who requested them.

Agencies like school districts receive money from the state legislature to cover basic operations, and according to Melanie Majors, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, one of those basic operations is the fulfillment of IPRA requests.

Majors said she can understand why a district might want to have an attorney review some items requested under IPRA, but she doesn’t feel it’s necessary in every case.