Platte Canyon school board votes to increase CORA processing fees to state maximum

Canyon Courier: The Platte Canyon school board voted Aug. 14 to increase the school district’s processing fees for Colorado Open Records Act requests to the state-allowed maximum of $30 an hour for research and retrieval after the first hour.

Discussed briefly as a change to the board’s freedom of information policy, the move stems from what district officials and board members called abuse of the state open records law.

“I think this is something we have to pay attention to — (the number of requests) have been unusually high for the district this summer,” said Superintendent Brenda Krage. “ … Many of the requests have been on similar topics, but from a different angle over and over again. (Processing those requests) takes away from getting the district’s work done. Again, we’re obligated to respond, but I think there has to be some fairness for the district.”

Krage later said in an interview that the school district received 21 CORA requests in recent months with 13 being focused around the same information specific to her evaluation as superintendent, as well as her contract with the district and her personnel file.

It is unclear how much the district had previously charged for CORA requests, and it is unknown how many requests came from the news media and how many from the public. In the handful of CORA requests sent by the Canyon Courier, no fees were assessed.

Both board president Katie Spodyak and board member Susan Carpenter agreed with Krage, saying the district needed the ability to recapture the costs of processing CORA requests.

Board member Jon DeStefano went a step further and suggested that the number of open-records requests might decrease if requesters were required to pay more.

“I think it’s easy for people to think it’s OK to do this stuff without any consideration for the time and expense it costs the district,” said DeStefano. “I think people would be more judicious if they had to share in the costs of (fulfilling) these requests. … When we dealt with this in Jeffco (Public Schools), people were just being a nuisance as opposed to generating any useful information. I think when there’s a good reason for CORA requests; it’s fine. But I think it can be used and has been misused in the Platte Canyon school district.”Despite DeStefano’s remarks, the school board didn’t debate different dollar figures for the fee increase.

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