Editorial: Colorado lawmakers should stand up for open records

The Denver Post:  It should come as little secret to regular readers that governments often work to confound the public’s right to know when asked to make available information that might embarrass or cause them legal troubles.

In too many disputes over access to information under the Colorado Open Records Act, citizens, advocacy groups and media organizations don’t proceed, fearing high court costs and attorney fees. Even in cases where a government body is acting improperly by denying records or violating open meetings laws, the only alternative is to go to court.

That’s a real problem in a state that recently earned an abysmal rating from the Center for Public Integrity for its open records environment. And as The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote recently, other attempts to bolster transparency during this year’s legislative session didn’t go very far.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and our state’s lawmakers ought to stand with the public and demand far better.

Last week, Jeff Roberts, who directs the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, noted that at least 26 states offer alternate methods of settling disputes over open records — without going to court.

The coalition commissioned research that looked across the country to see how states handle such disputes. Its findings are revealing.

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