By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director
Elbert County put the real estate assessment records of four elected officials online Wednesday, five days after the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition revealed that the information was hidden from public view.
“I am aware that has happened. I didn’t object to it whatsoever,” said Commissioner Robert Rowland, one of the elected officials whose records had been flagged as confidential and were not searchable on the county assessor’s website.
The property assessments of Rowland, Treasurer Richard Pettitt and Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder also were not available to the CFOIC when we showed up in person in Kiowa to see them, despite the fact that property records are public under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).
Assessor Billie Mills, whose own records also were not online, had offered to let the CFOIC view her property’s assessment but said we would need permission from the other elected officials to see theirs. It was only after the CFOIC submitted a formal CORA request letter that the county released copies of the elected officials’ assessments.
“To be honest with you, I never gave it a second thought,” Rowland said Wednesday of his previously hidden assessment information. “I thought it was part of the standard procedure.”
Mills had told the CFOIC that she and the other elected officials kept their assessment information confidential for “safety” reasons, not because they were trying to hide the value of their properties. “The people in this county have a tendency to threaten us,” Mills said, adding that someone once threatened to bomb her home.
When we interviewed Mills on June 18, she told us the county commission had decided “many years ago” that Elbert’s elected officials could request to have their assessment records be made confidential. But when the CFOIC submitted an open-records request for any documents related to such a policy, we were told in a letter “there are no records in the possession of Elbert County which are responsive to your request.”
Mills on Wednesday referred our questions about why the records were put online to County Attorney Wade Gateley.
“We conducted research on this issue, and acted based on our research,” Gateley said in an email.