Zansberg: The right to inspect the public’s records

From The Denver Post:  Sen. John Kefalas and Rep. Dan Pabon deserve thanks from all Coloradans for their valiant, but unsuccessful, effort to guarantee the public’s right to inspect its records. These two legislators introduced Senate Bill 37, which would have clarified that Coloradans enjoy the right to obtain copies of public records in the same digitized format in which government maintains those records.

Our tax dollars pay public servants to carry out the people’s business, including creating and keeping public records — our records — on our behalf. These public employees are the custodians of our records, and the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) says so. Indeed, CORA provides us all the right to access those public records; not merely the data or information contained in them, but the very writings we have paid our government officials to create and maintain for us.

Nevertheless, several government agencies have refused to provide access to digitized records in digital form, arguing that CORA does not guarantee access to public records in a specific format.

In response to a recent records request from Rocky Mountain PBS, the city of Aurora is demanding $290 to print out a 1,100-page database that the city admits it could transmit in less than two minutes via e-mail. While other jurisdictions produced such a digital file at no cost, Aurora says the law does not require it to produce digital records, and it chooses not to.

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