What do you get when you ask three lawyers to discuss the ambiguous aspects of the Colorado Open Records Act and the state’s Sunshine (open meetings) Law? The answer is not four opinions.
Public Records Laws
The Jefferson County teacher’s union has taken legal steps to block the Jeffco school district from releasing additional names of high school teachers who collectively called in sick last September.
State lawmakers defeated a bill that would have made the State Public Defender’s Office subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, preferring to let the Colorado Judicial Branch write its own rules for releasing administrative records for that agency and other agencies under its control.
While lawmakers consider whether to make the state public defender’s office subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, the judicial branch is in the process of writing a new set of rules governing access to most of its administrative records.
State lawmakers killed legislation that would have let Colorado counties publish fiscal information on their websites rather than in newspapers.
HB 15-1101 would make the records of the state public defender and the office of alternate defense counsel subject to CORA, except for privileged attorney-client records, as defined by the proposal.
Technology has made it easier than ever for governments to generate information, yet it also raises barriers to the public’s ability to inspect those records. CFOIC President Steve Zansberg explores this issue in an article for Communications Lawyer magazine.
For the CFOIC, revisiting 2014 reveals a somewhat troubling string of stories about issues and problems affecting government transparency in Colorado. Consider them one by one and you might not be all that concerned. But put them in a list and you could reasonably conclude that open government in the Centennial State is still a work in progress.
Successfully challenging a denial of public records entitles you to some portion of your attorneys’ fees even if it was a records custodian who initiated the court action, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and two other organizations argued in a friend-of-the-court brief.
Public records aren’t supposed to be prohibitively expensive – that was the goal of a new state law capping research-and-retrieval fees. So we were surprised to see a $2,440 estimate to review records from a special district in Falcon.