Montezuma health department likely breaches open records law

The Journal (Cortez): The Montezuma County Health Department has failed to provide restaurant inspection records to The Journal in compliance with Colorado open records law, citing a staff shortage, faulty database and insufficient funding.

After three months of delays in providing the reports, the department violated state law on several fronts by charging The Journal an excessive fee for copies of the public records, according to First Amendment lawyer Steven Zansberg.

The Journal’s requests, first made in May, reached an impasse after July 12, when the newspaper submitted a written request for 143 inspection reports on restaurants and food-serving facilities in Montezuma and Dolores counties between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.

On July 27, the health department emailed a delivery date of Sept. 29 and a quote of $518.85 for the records.

Director Bobbi Lock argued that the department cannot afford to pay its inspector for the work – she needed the additional money from The Journal to cover its costs.

But according to Zansberg, of the firm Levine Sullivan Koch and Schulz, the health department’s price nonetheless violates Colorado law on several fronts. He disputed the charges on behalf of The Journal in an Aug. 4 letter to the health department.

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