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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Worker Says Police Told Him to Sit on Records

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - Albuquerque fired the Central Records Supervisor and Records Custodian of its Police Department for trying to do his job: responding to requests for public records, he claims in court.

Reynaldo L. Chavez sued Albuquerque on Monday in Bernalillo County Court, seeking damages for conspiracy, breach of contract, spoliation, and whistleblower violations. He also sued the Albuquerque Police Department, police chief, assistant chief, legal counsel for the police and the executive director of its administrative support bureau.

Chavez was the point man and supervisor for requests to the police department under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act, he says in the complaint. His bosses were defendants Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr., Assistant Police Chief Robert Huntsman, APD legal counsel Kathryn Levy and APD Executive Director of Administrative Support William Slausen.

Chavez claims that he was often instructed to withhold certain records or find ways around responding to them.

His 29-page lawsuit, with 11 pages of exhibits, lists various tactics by which he was to do that, such as delaying answers, insisting that requestors provide more information, and producing boxes of irrelevant materials to force the requestors to sift "take up [their] time and tire [them] out."

In some cases, Chavez says, he was simply told not to respond.

states in his lawsuit that he was never permitted to send out the requested materials at all.

He claims defendant Levy, the police's legal counsel, told him: "There are items we just will not release and we will just pay the fines or lawsuits."

The Albuquerque Police Department has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, for use of excessive force in high-profile cases such as the officer-involved shooting deaths of James Boyd and Mary Hawkes, and for lack of transparency.

Chavez says that a widely reported scandal involving links between the department's former chief, Taser International, and a $2 million no-bid contract for purchase of lapel cameras for officers "flooded" his office with requests for details on the purchase and contract, but many of the emails, records, and memos were never released to the public, on the direct order of Chavez's superiors.

Chavez claims that when he protested these restrictions, he was accused of verbal, physical and sexual abuse by a contract employee whom he had reprimanded for chronic absenteeism only hours before. The police team who investigated him found him guilty of a laundry list of infractions, none of which, he says, were true.

He was fired in August 2015.

Chavez's attorney did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez told Courthouse News, "There is always more to the story when the city finds it necessary to fire an employee. That is true here, as well. The city takes these claims seriously, especially as they relate to our responsibilities under public record laws. We are committed to those responsibilities and are constantly striving to improve transparency and responsiveness to public requests."

Chavez seeks punitive damages.

He is represented by Thomas Grover.

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