NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A New Mexico attorney is suing the state so he can talk about what he calls ongoing abuse and neglect inside the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department.
The lawsuit filed in federal court says that New Mexico attorney Harold Atencio wants a judge to throw out the statute that makes revealing government misconduct in these cases a crime. According to the lawsuit, Atencio alleges a violation of policies within CYFD. “Without going into details the misconduct that we are talking about is things that CYFD employee decisions, that CYFD employees are making,” said Atencio’s attorney, Benjamin Gubernick.
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Gubernick says his client, who represents families of children who’ve been subject to abuse and neglect, learned of violations within CYFD procedures. “On this particular issue that we are talking about only in the last month or so. This is misconduct that he recently observed and wishes to talk about,” said Gubernick. The lawsuit alleges Atencio was made aware of possible corruption as well as conduct that threatened the wellbeing of a child. “He thinks that what he has witnessed is egregious misconduct that people should know about.
However, under New Mexico state law, if Atencio were to publicize the alleged CYFD misconduct, he would be subject to a misdemeanor offense. According to state law NMSA 1978, it is a crime to disclose any information relating to abuse and neglect proceedings. “There is, I’m sure, quite a lot of other misconduct that people would like to disclose and that the public would like to know about, but they are afraid to do so because as long as this statute is around, revealing government misconduct is a crime,” Gubernick said.
Atencio’s attorney says the lawsuit would put pressure on the Attorney General, Raul Torrez, and Bernalillo County’s District Attorney, Sam Bregman, limiting anyone from enforcing the statute. The District Attorney’s office says they would not comment on the pending litigation. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office says they have yet to be served with the lawsuit, once they review it, they will reevaluate their position.