Governments change CORA fee policies in advance of new law

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

At least two government entities, the city of Aurora and the state Independent Ethics Commission, have changed their open-records policies in advance of a new law, capping research-and-retrieval charges, that goes into effect tomorrow, July 1.

The revised Aurora policy, signed by City Manager George Noe on June 26, sets the fee for filling a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request at $30 per hour with the first hour free. That’s in line with the maximum charge allowed under HB 14-1193, passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

Aurora previously charged up to $50 per hour to research public records requests.

The Independent Ethics Commission recently posted a new CORA policy, also in line with the maximum-allowable charge, after it was revealed that the IEC’s previously posted policy set copying charges at $1.25 per page. The legislature passed a law in 2007 limiting photocopying fees to 25 cents per page.

HB 14-1193 attempts to standardize hourly research prices that have been “all over the map” among governments and agencies in Colorado, according to 2013 report by Colorado Ethics Watch.  Starting tomorrow, CORA will specify research-fee parameters for the first time since it was enacted in 1969.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper signs HB 1193, flanked by (left) Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, and (right) Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

The maximum rate of $30 per hour will be adjusted for inflation every five years, and the first hour of work must be provided to the requestor at no cost. It remains to be seen whether any governments and agencies that currently charge less than $30 per hour and provide two hours free will switch to the maximum rate and give away just one hour.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton and Democratic Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, also prohibits governments in Colorado from charging for public records without first publishing their fee policies on the Internet or in some other form.

Note: The board of directors of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition supported HB 14-1193.\

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