'This, dear taxpayers, is how UNM plays hide the ball with the public’s right to know' - nmfishbowl.com editor Daniel Libit
Journalist Seeks Records on Relationship with Lobo Athletics, Wants Foundation Declared ‘Public Body’
BY ABQ FREE PRESS STAFF
Daniel Libit, an online journalist, filed a lawsuit against the UNM Foundation after it failed to produce records he sought regarding its relationship with UNM Athletics.
Libit, a former reporter for The Albuquerque Tribune and an Albuquerque native, now living in Chicago, runs the website nmfishbowl.com that has focused on the lack of transparency within the UNM Athletics Department.
In a story posted this week, he said he he filed the District Court lawsuit requesting that the foundation produce the records.
“At its heart, the lawsuit (which also names UNM’s Board of Regents as a defendant) challenges the Foundation’s argument that it should be exempt from the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act because it is a private, non-profit entity. The lawsuit contends that this claim is merely a canard designed to keep actual public records locked away from the actual public.
NMFishbowl.com’s keyhole into the Foundation’s surreptitious imperative began with our efforts last year to learn more about the behind-the-scenes activity and conversations that preceded the signing of the WisePies naming-rights deal. In November, I submitted a public record’s request to UNM seeking certain germane emails from Larry Ryan, the Foundation’s vice president of university development. In response, the school’s public records custodian, John Rodriguez, wrote me this:
‘The University does not have the records you seek. I suggest you contact the UNM Foundation directly, which is a separate legal entity, for their consideration…’
I followed through as instructed, and sent a similar request to Jennifer Kemp, the Foundation’s communications director. Kemp, in ultimately rejecting my request, stated that the Foundation is a “501(c)(3) non-profit, non-public entity” and that it “does not share donor or gift information unless the donor has authorized us to do so.'”
Later in the article, Libit wrote:
“This, dear taxpayers, is how UNM plays hide the ball with the public’s right to know: the Foundation serves as the university’s public accountability force field, allowing UNM to off-shore core aspects of its operations to a business black-site that claims to operate by a different set of standards.”
The lawsuit demands the release of the requested records, damages and attorneys’ fees and the foundation be designated a public body subject to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. Libit’s lawsuit was filed by attorneys David Urias and Nicholas T. Hart, who are with the Albuquerque legal powerhouse Freedman, Boyd and Daniels.