Transparency in local government – Los Alamos Reporter

BY CORTNI NUCKLOS
Los Allamos

Editor,

I don’t think anyone has ever accused Los Alamos County of being particularly good at transparency. And yet, recent incidents have led me to fear that we are retreating further and further on this front.

I am currently awaiting the results of a Public Documents Inspection Act (IPRA) request that I submitted 30 days ago. And the county missed the deadline. They think they might have things for me next week, well over the legal limit of 15 calendar days. This is of particular concern given the pattern of similar and even more egregious actions surrounding IPRA’s demands that I have witnessed over the past two years.

And at a time when permit discussions, including those very relevant to ongoing council issues, consume local press and talk pages, the community development department’s self-service portal, where members of the community would normally be able to view all permits and associated documents is declining. Their site had an error code that implied a not very difficult solution, and now just takes you to a blank page. It remains in perpetuity with no information disclosed about it when it is repaired.

Right now, residents have to file IPRA applications for CDD registrations and wait for extended periods for what was and should be automatic. But I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that when I requested a CDD registration through IPRA last year, a CDD manager changed the registration after my request and only provided the amended part until I prove what he did. The county concedes that it amended the record in the human resources report on the matter.

And notably, the most recent communication I received from the county on IPRA requests indicates that they have adopted a new policy of deleting IPRA share folders – at a time when online storage is practically free – after 14 days. And while individuals can download files from the Share Folder, it makes it much more difficult to go back and see which records were provided by the County at what time. This is important in order to be able to identify IPRA violations.

Thus, the inhabitants of this municipality are no longer able to easily view information on the condition of buildings in the city. And if they file IPRAs, they may or may not get them in a few weeks. And they may or may not get specific files since RIM Office does not have direct access to many CDD files. And the records of what and when they are actually given will be deleted shortly thereafter. I am sure I am not the only one who finds this an unacceptable set of circumstances.

And none of this is helped by recent county council actions, including 1) a consent agenda item * which purported to represent the wishes of schools without any actual votes from duly elected council members. school, and 2) a heavy reliance on what one public comment has called “phantom constituents”. In the latter case, the advisers chose to universally ignore public comments against their position by claiming that they had heard “a lot more people” in favor of their position, though conveniently not officially.

The county must do better, be better and at least be transparent with the community.

Transparency is an issue constantly raised by the community and claimed as a priority by this Council. Why at this point is there not a county transparency council to liaise with the RIM office and with the council on how to improve transparency in the county and how to restore trust that so many people have lost in our local government’s ability to lead themselves over the edge?

This problem will not go away.