Appeals court: Aspen woman can get records showing whistleblower’s identity

From The Aspen Times:  A Red Mountain homeowner has prevailed in her legal bid to learn the identity of a person who levied a complaint over a construction project, a decision that could change the way Pitkin County handles whistleblower cases concerning land use.

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a March 2014 decision made by Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols, who ruled that Elesabeth R. Shook cannot inspect government records revealing the identity of the complainant.

The appellate court’s ruling, made public Thursday, allows Shook to review the records. The order also says the county must pay Shook’s court costs and attorneys fees, which will be determined by the district court.

“Ms. Shook is very happy that the state Court of Appeals found that these are public records and shouldn’t be held from public access,” said Chris Bryan of Garfield & Hecht PC, the Aspen law firm representing Shook. “That’s the spirit of the Colorado Open Records Act.”

The matter will go before county commissioners during a closed session Tuesday, county attorneys said. Commissioners could take the matter to the Colorado Supreme Court, provided the high court is willing to entertain it.

“The county was concerned about the repercussion of releasing this information,” said Laura Makar, assistant county attorney. Makar and Bryan made oral arguments before the appellate court panel in May. “We’re concerned that citizens won’t have the ability to report land-use code violations without possible reprisal against those citizens.”

Visit The Aspen Times for more.

Subscribe to Our Blog