Salazar looks to address Colorado’s up-and-down open records fees

From The Colorado Independent:  At the end of a hot, dry summer, the Colorado Court of Appeals approved a $16,025 records-retrieval fee assessed to property owners in Arapahoe County who requested emails about a Parker Jordan Metropolitan District stream improvement project. It’s the kind of price tag that dampens the will to watchdog government and clouds the work of public officials.

“It was an eyeopener for us and a lot of other people,” said Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch. “Open records requests are fundamental to our mission and, just in the course of our everyday work, we had noticed the wide variation in policies around fees, particularly the sometimes outrageous fees municipalities want to charge for these requests.”

Representative Joe Salazar, a Democrat from Thornton, plans to introduce a bill this legislative session that would standardize fees for requests made under the Colorado Open Records Act, commonly referred to as CORA.

“We’re seeing abuses on both ends,” Salazar told the Independent. “Public entities will get these really abusive open records requests and put in an awful lot of time, effort and taxpayer dollars into responding. Then the person who asked for the documents never shows up. There’s no accountability.

“On the other hand, there are abuses on the part of public entities, where someone will file a records request, and sometimes they’re pretty simple, and the entity will charge an enormous amount of money to fulfill the request and assign the work to someone who already gets paid to do open records stuff, so they’re basically double charging the public.”

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