Pitkin County dishes out $100K in open-records litigation

From the Aspen Daily News:  Pitkin County agreed on Tuesday to dole out $100,000 in costs and fees pending from litigation tied to an open records request involving local Elesabeth Shook.

Shook sued the county under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) while trying to determine the identity of another local who filed a complaint with the county’s community development department over construction that took place on her property in 2012.

Laura Makar, assistant county attorney, told the county commissioners that the code enforcement officer for the county determined that land-use code violations did occur on the property in question.

“[Mrs. Shook] requested three records that concerned a land-use code violation,” she said. “Someone made a report to the Community Development office concerning activities on Mrs. Shook’s property that they believed were undertaken without a building permit.”

The county had argued the request to see the records was excluded from CORA because it was an investigative law enforcement file; contended that its release could lead to acrimony between neighbors and thus wasn’t in the public interest; and said such a release could have a negative effect in the future that makes residents reticent to report legitimate complaints.

But while the local district court agreed with the county’s position, an appellate court sided with Shook, reversing the decision and leading to the records being turned over. The county was then forced to pay a settlement for court costs in the case.

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