Some governments make public records less accessible

From Some Colorado governments are modifying their data, making it difficult — or prohibitively expensive — for taxpayers and journalists to determine who is paid the highest salary or how public money is spent.

Pinnacol Assurance, a quasi-government agency with a history of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish trips and alcohol-fueled events while paying employees huge salaries, recently asked for more than $32,000 to provide information on how it’s spending money and what employees make.

Larimer County has a policy that data it keeps in a spreadsheet or database will be turned into a PDF before it’s released to the public, making it very time consuming to do an analysis of the pay or spending.

Denver releases much of its spending information on its transparency website in spreadsheet-compatible form, but requests for salary and overtime databases are released in PDFs.

“There is no requirement that we provide the information in any particular format; however, to ensure the integrity of the information provided, it is our practice to normally provide in PDF format,” wrote Denver public safety record coordinator Mary Dulacki in an email.

Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, said state law requires governments to release data in the form it’s kept, but conceded the law isn’t well written.

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