State Integrity report gives Colorado an ‘F’ for public access to information

Colorado gets an “F” for public access to information in a Center for Public Integrity report released Monday that ranks each state on matters of transparency and accountability.

Two reasons for the low ranking: The lack of an agency to monitor how access-to-information laws are working and no formal appeals process outside of the court system to assist people who are denied records.

state-integrity-logo.jpgThe “State Integrity 2015” report also dings Colorado for its Criminal Justice Records Act, which allows law enforcement agencies to withhold a wide range of records (“think footage from police body cameras,” it says) if they determine that their release would be “contrary to the public interest.”

Another issue: The Colorado Judicial Branch is exempt from the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA), making it harder to obtain certain administrative records such as spending by the state public defender’s office in the James Holmes death penalty case (the Colorado Supreme Court recently released its own rules for accessing judicial branch administrative records).

“There’s a huge, gaping hole right now,” the Center for Public Integrity quotes CFOIC President Steve Zansberg as saying. “One of the three branches of government is not subject to our open records act by its own ruling.”

Colorado’s also flunked the “Ethics Enforcement Agencies” category but received praise for its transparent state budget process, earning a “B+” in that category. The state was given a “D+” overall, although it fared better than most other states, ranking 13th.

The low ranking on public information put Colorado 16th from the bottom. Wyoming and New Hampshire scored worst. Iowa and Utah ranked first and second, respectively, with each earning a “C-“.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC.

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