Judge dismisses Basalt lawsuit over open-records request

From The Aspen Times:  An Eagle County district judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that was filed by the town of Basalt against a citizen who requested information in April under the Colorado Open Records Act.

Both sides wanted the lawsuit dismissed, although citizen Mary Kenyon hoped to have a hearingthat would produce answers to her questions about why the lawsuit was filed. Judge Fred Gannett denied her request for that hearing.

Gannett left open the question of whether or not Kenyon could recover expenses and fees she incurred in defending herself in the suit. It was unclear how that issue will be resolved.

Kenyon welcomed the judge’s decision. “It never should have been filed in the first place,” she said. “That was my contention all along.”

Kenyon filed open records requests for the text messages exchanged between Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Town Clerk Pam Schilling between March 15 and April 12 — before, during and after the April 5 election.

Kenyon contends the municipal election wasn’t handled properly. She wanted the text exchanges between Whitsitt and Schilling to see if improper information was exchanged.

The town filed a lawsuit against Kenyon April 29 because Town Attorney Tom Smith contends it is unclear if text messages are subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. The cell phone service provider couldn’t produce the substance of the texts, so the issue became “moot,” Smith said Tuesday. Therefore, the town filed for voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit. The provider was able to determine there were 120 text exchanges between Whitsitt and Schilling over that period. Whitsitt previously said they involved “mechanics” of the election, such as poll watcher rules.

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