From the Colorado Springs Independent: CORA is a wonderful thing. But it’s not perfect. And it might never be.
The Colorado Open Records Act is what First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg likes to call “a fishing license.”
In an era when newspapers are struggling, and local investigative reporting is endangered by shrinking budgets and talent pools (some major universities have chosen to dismantle their journalism departments), a fishing license is more important to the public’s right to know than ever.
Having worked 38 years for newspapers in three states, I can testify that without a license, reporters would never reel in the giant shark, or even a few shrimp. That’s because records always tell a story — especially important when nobody wants to talk or they’re afraid to talk.
The following investigations in my career could not have been done without access laws:
• The Garden City (Kansas) Telegram’s investigation of a school superintendent’s theft of more than $100,000 from public coffers through use of phony companies and a circuitous reimbursement method for district travel. This story began with a bankruptcy case — an open record — and relied on mountains of school district financial records. The superintendent was convicted of nine felonies.
• The Tulsa Tribune’s deep look at a chronically poor-performing water treatment plant that led to a one-page secret agreement between the city and a politically influential engineering firm. The agreement exonerated the firm of any liability for designing the plant, which failed to meet state standards from Day One and had cost thousands in repairs. The engineering firm was banned from bidding on city projects for a time.
Visit the Colorado Springs Independent for more.