The high-profile public information cases that Chavez said he was ordered to sabotage included those related to Mary Han, who died in November 2010 of an alleged suicide.
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The former records custodian for the Albuquerque Police Department says he was ordered by department higher-ups to fabricate reasons to deny public information requests from the public and news media in high-profile cases, and that he was fired when he objected to the practice.
The former custodian, Reynaldo Chavez, made the allegations in a whistleblower lawsuit filed Monday in state District Court in Albuquerque. Named as defendants in the lawsuit were APD Chief Gorden Eden, Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman, Administrative Support Bureau Executive Director William Slausen and former assistant City Attorney Kathryn Levy.
The suit said the defendants ordered Chavez to obstruct public information requests in high-profile cases and to stifle requests from certain individuals including freelance journalist Charles Arasim and Albuquerque resident Silvio Dell’Angela, as well as members of the news media.
The defendants ordered Chavez to “creatively deny an allowable exception to the IPRA [Inspection of Public Records Act] to withhold production of responsive public records in an effort to ‘baffle’ or frustrate the requestor or otherwise burden them,” the lawsuit said. It alleged that Chavez was also told “to fabricate reasons to burden requestors with additional requirements when such requirements were not needed, such as case numbers or increased particularity in a given request.”
Chavez was also ordered to bury requestors with irrelevant documents so they would get tired of looking through them and give up, the lawsuit said. “Defendant Levy specifically instructed Mr. Chavez to produce boxes of records for KRQE-13 reporter Kim Holland of non-responsive material related to her requests concerning the United States Department of Justice Investigation of APD,” the lawsuit said.
“Such boxes of material were not relevant to the request but ‘will take up her time and tire her out,’ or words to that effect as expressed by defendant Levy,” the lawsuit said.
The high-profile public information cases that Chavez said he was ordered to sabotage included those related to Mary Han, who died in November 2010 of an alleged suicide; APD officers Robert Woolever and John Doyle; Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg; APD’s use of force; APD’s Internal Afairs unit; the Police Oversight Commission; every APD officer involved shooting, including James Boyd and Mary Hawkes, who were both fatally shot by officers in 2014; the skateboard park shooting death of Jaquise Lewis; the shooting of APD Det. Jacob Grant, who was shot by his own lieutenant and matters involving former Police Chief Ray Schultz and his involvement with Taser International, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Chavez often objected to his orders to foil public records requests. He was fired in 2015, allegedly after complaining about what he said were unlawful orders to deny public records requests, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages for emotional distress, as well as attorneys fees.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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