Pitkin County takes records case to high court

From the Aspen Daily News:  Pitkin County, trying to shield a record that shows who made a complaint against an Aspen woman’s construction project at her home, wants the Colorado Supreme Court to rule on the case.

After losing at the appellate level, the county last month petitioned the state high court to decide the issue of whether Elizabeth Shook and others who have land-use complaints filed against them should be able to access such records.

The case arose when someone in 2012 filed a grievance with the county’s community development department about construction on Shook’s property. Shook acknowledged the work was done without a permit and quickly remedied the situation.

Then she sought, under the Colorado Open Records Act, three documents: the complaint; an email from Carrington Brown, Pitkin County’s code enforcement officer who has since retired; and Brown’s notes from his investigation.

The case went to trial in 2013, with the county contending that the records Shook sought are investigatory files, subject to a CORA exemption that protects law enforcement inquiries. The county contends such access would inflame tensions between neighbors and potentially lead to retaliation.

Judge Gail Nichols of Pitkin County District Court ruled in the county’s favor in 2014. She found that CORA prevents the public disclosure of any records that are part of “investigations conducted by any sheriff, prosecuting attorney or police department … or any investigatory files compiled for any other law enforcement purpose.”

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