Twenty years ago this month, Bob Johnson hung out the shingle for the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
It’s still around, fighting for individuals’ rights to know what government is doing.
Sarah Welsh is the non-profit group’s executive director these days. Here’s a snippet she wrote last week on the NM-FOG Web site at www.nmfog.org:
“NM-FOG had been officially incorporated ... in June 1989. And boy, did it hit the ground running.
“At an April 21, 1990, meeting, the board of directors was already receiving updates on a lawsuit against the University of New Mexico. UNM refused to release the names of candidates for president, and that lawsuit eventually led to a settlement agreement and a change in state public-records law.
“Ironically, we’re still fighting that fight. The Dines & Gross Law Firm, representing the Daily Times and NM-FOG, won a lawsuit last summer against the city of Farmington. The city had refused to release non-finalist city-manager applications, and the case went up to the state Appeals Court. Then last fall, Espanola’s Northern New Mexico College said it thought the requirement to release five presidential finalists’ names was an infringement of the College’s constitutional rights.
“It certainly makes you shake your head. But I don’t find it discouraging. Rather, I think it shows the importance of sustained vigilance. The tension between individual rights and government power will never go away. Bureaucracies will always be as secretive as possible. Public officials will always fight to cover up evidence of malfeasance and mismanagement. Against that huge force for secrecy, there needs to be a constant counterweight, pushing back in the name of transparency.
“That’s what NM-FOG is for.”