Because it isn't a law enforcement agency, the New Mexico Human Services Department can't justify keeping an audit of 15 health providers secret using the law enforcement exception to a state sunshine law, according to a lawsuit filed by two news organizations seeking release of the audit. New Mexico in Depth reports that the state Attorney General's Office argued in a court brief filed last week that keeping the audit secret is necessary to protect an ongoing criminal probe into potential Medicaid fraud.
Boston-based Public Consulting Group conducted the 400-page audit for the state Human Services Department, which later gave the document to the AG for investigation. The audit is relevant to the criminal probe, so the document can be kept secret even though a law enforcement agency didn't conduct it, the AG argues. That logic is “a terrifying proposition” for the state's Inspection of Public Records Act, according to C.J. McElhinney, the attorney representing New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News in the lawsuit. He replied in a court brief, “There is no public record that would be safe from exemption.”