Neither the Colorado Open Records Act nor the Colorado Open Meetings Law applies to the constitutionally created state commission that investigates allegations of ethical misconduct involving public officials, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled.
Public Records Laws
This may come as a surprise to Coloradans who have been quoted hundreds or thousands of dollars by cities, state agencies, school districts and other government entities for “research and retrieval” in response to their public records requests: Not every state allows such charges.
We didn’t think our story would be an open-and-shut case. Neither did we expect such secrecy from a governmental branch whose purpose is to oversee the implementation of laws and enforce them.
Not only is a $50-per-record research fee not authorized in CORA, the building department’s public records policy makes no mention of providing a free hour to requesters. That is an “unequivocal violation of CORA,” said Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. The department’s justification for its research-and-retrieval fee is “simply lacking in any legal basis,” he added.
A former senior assistant attorney general for Colorado is making a case for a more transparent state system of regulating the legal profession. Comments submitted by Paul Chessin this month to the Colorado Supreme Court call for public disclosure to be “the rule, not the exception.”
Allowing the University of Colorado regents to “engage in manipulative word-play and end-run” the Colorado Open Records Act by defining the term “finalist” to mean a sole “nominee” for the CU presidency would “deal a crippling blow” to the statute, argues a brief submitted to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Tuesday by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
Rachael Johnson was looking for a way to combine her career experiences as a journalist and a lawyer. Starting Sept. 14, she’ll get that opportunity in her home state of Colorado as a Local Legal Initiative attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Boulder Beat has asked a judge to decide whether a Boulder City Council member’s personal email exchanges with two nonprofits are public records subject to disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act.
Incidents in Colorado and elsewhere show the limitations of HB 19-1119 as a tool of transparency, accountability and for building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. More could be done to ensure the public knows when officers are accused of misconduct or of using excessive force, how those allegations are investigated and whether and how discipline is imposed.
One positive development in the current historical moment is the growing awareness and recognition – by citizens, legislators, governors, mayors, and even police chiefs – that there can be little or no public trust, a necessary foundation of effective law enforcement, without both accountability and transparency.