Peck: Open records requests being used for personal attacks

Times-Call (Longmont): Now that the 2017 election year has to come to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the current state of our electoral system and our ability as a society to attract the best and brightest to serve in government at all levels — from our local offices to the highest in the land. One clear example of a hindrance for us to attract the very best is evidenced by a wacky summer of Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests.

But first, a little history. CORA is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the records of government bodies in Colorado. The law was first enacted in 1969. Anyone can request information that is in the possession of a government office, including the Secretary of State’s office.

Pretty straight forward, right? Transparency in government is a good thing we all certainly support.

However, like too many laws, there are loopholes that seem to go against the intended spirit of CORA. For example, a CORA request can stay open in perpetuity. However, the recipient of a request has strict timelines in which he/she must respond, or be in violation of the law. The parties requesting the information from an elected official can remain completely anonymous and often do so by using third-party organizations or law firms to hide their identity. Specific items and dates for the information must be given, but the reason for the request is often not transparent.

The intent of CORA is to help ensure transparency from our elected officials and that is a good thing. Even though the laws are intended for government records only, CORA’s are being used to request the sometimes very personal information of elected officials. For example, a CORA request was sent to my personal email account from a partisan lawyer in Denver known for targeting Democratic elected officials. The request was for communication from and with organizations and clubs that I have belonged to personally (some for years before being elected), notes I took at meetings and personal external storage devices.

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