Colorado Springs Independent: Every year, reporters observe Sunshine Week (it’s March 12-18 this year) by celebrating the efforts of those in our industry who shed light on the dark corners of government, and by pushing for greater transparency.
In that spirit, the Independent spoke with Jeff Roberts, the executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, about the state of Colorado’s two public records laws: the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA), which covers law enforcement records, and the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), which covers other government documents.
In short, Roberts says Colorado could do better. In November 2015, Colorado was given an “F” for public access to information by the Center for Public Integrity. That report cited two main issues. First, no agency in the state monitors how well our transparency laws work, and second, if a public document is denied, the requester can’t appeal the denial — they have to sue.
The report also called out Colorado for two other major issues: The fact that law enforcement officials can easily deny CCJRA requests for documents by saying releasing them wouldn’t be “in the public interest,” and the exemption for the state’s judicial branch from CORA.
Roberts cites yet another problem: “An issue that happens to some people that request public records in Colorado, is they’ll request public records that are kept in a spreadsheet or a database and they’ll get a printout instead,” he says, “or they’ll get a very big PDF, and it makes analysis of that data very difficult. And we think that public records ought to be easy for the public to analyze.”
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