Denver’s ‘transparency’ portal skips secret taxpayer-funded meals

From In his 2013 State of the City speech, Mayor Michael Hancock touted a new city website to help residents determine how officials spend tax money.

“We will also fulfill our promise to be more transparent,” he told supporters, reporters and city staff. “In just a few short days, we will unveil an online tool that will show exactly how the city is spending your money. Through Transparent Denver, residents will have real-time access to view the city’s checkbook and so much more.”

While Transparent Denver does provide substantial information about many city expenses, found that two departments — the Denver City Attorney’s office and the troubled Denver Human Services department — are using privacy concerns to redact information about items that should likely be public, such as employees eating out on the taxpayers’ dime.

When asked for copies of the receipts, the departments’ staff said it would take hours of staff time and, in the case of Human Services, hundreds of dollars to produce the documents.

Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, said unless the documents involve city attorney privileged opinions or human service clients, the information should be readily available.

“It really shouldn’t be a such complex process to review expense reports,” he said after told him about the privacy notations in Transparency Denver and the price tags department officials put on the search. “There shouldn’t be a lot in there that requires redaction.”

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