- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexicans would have online access to the financial-disclosure statements of judges under legislation proposed by an Albuquerque lawmaker.

Judges and other government officials, including legislators and state agency heads, must file annual financial statements with the secretary of state disclosing their sources of income of more than $5,000, business interests of $10,000 or more, and other information revealing possible areas where there could be a conflict of interest with their government duties.

The financial statements are available in the secretary of state’s office in Santa Fe and can be obtained through a public records request.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, proposes to require the agency to post the judicial disclosures on its website. They also would be available through state government’s online “sunshine portal.”

The goal, he said, is to increase governmental transparency.

“I just think that we best preserve public trust by having that information openly accessible to the people,” Candelaria said Monday.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has agreed to put the proposal on the agenda of the legislative session. By law, 30-day sessions are limited to the budget, taxes and other measures allowed by the governor.

In the past, financial disclosures for all government officials were posted online.

However, the secretary of state’s office stopped doing that after judicial officials and others voiced security concerns because the forms list residential addresses, telephone numbers and other personal identifying information, said Ken Ortiz, chief of staff for Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

Candelaria said he is surprised to learn that no financial-disclosure statements currently were available online, and he’ll consider pushing for a change in state law to make clear that all of them should be posted on a government web site.

“It’s sort of frustrating to hear that they have stopped doing that for the other branches of government,” he said.

Candelaria also plans to revise his bill to allow the redaction of some personal identification information from the online posting of the disclosure forms.

Especially for judges who handle criminal cases, he said, “it’s probably not the best thing to publish that kind of personal information from a personal safety concern.”

As introduced, he said, the legislation is intended to cover judges ranging from those in magistrate and districts courts to the state Supreme Court.

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Arthur Pepin said it’s unclear whether the legislation would apply broadly to also include administrative law judges and hearing officers.


Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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