Inside the fight for open records

Westword: The way things stand now, obtaining open records from a government agency in Colorado and then going after said government agency if you feel as though you’ve been wrongly denied those records is tough.

Jeffrey A. Roberts puts it more bluntly: “Litigate or give up.”

That’s how Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, started a recent blog post about resolving open-government disputes.

While all states have some sort of a process for residents to obtain public records — Colorado’s is the CORA, or Colorado Open Records Act — the Centennial State is one of about 25 that doesn’t have a process for its residents to appeal a denied open-records request that doesn’t involve litigation. And since not everyone has the money to take the government to court (you may have heard that newspapers are hurting financially, yes?),  most people give up on the record they’re trying to obtain. And that’s bad news for everyone. Less information — information taxpayers are absolutely entitled to — opens up the possibility for more corruption.

“It can be a very frustrating for journalists and the public knowing that there’s not another way to make this happen,” Roberts says.

But this conundrum presented an opportunity.

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