When the Fort Collins City Council went into an executive session Oct. 20, the announced purpose was to discuss “broadband issues,” a topic not expressly authorized in the Colorado Open Meetings Law for closed-door deliberations.
This may come as a surprise to Coloradans who have been quoted hundreds or thousands of dollars by cities, state agencies, school districts and other government entities for “research and retrieval” in response to their public records requests: Not every state allows such charges.
Incidents in Colorado and elsewhere show the limitations of HB 19-1119 as a tool of transparency, accountability and for building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. More could be done to ensure the public knows when officers are accused of misconduct or of using excessive force, how those allegations are investigated and whether and how discipline is imposed.
One positive development in the current historical moment is the growing awareness and recognition – by citizens, legislators, governors, mayors, and even police chiefs – that there can be little or no public trust, a necessary foundation of effective law enforcement, without both accountability and transparency.
In a case similar to the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit against the University of Colorado regents, an El Paso County District Court judge will soon decide whether Colorado’s open government laws require a school board to name more than one finalist when choosing a new superintendent.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces everybody to consider limiting their exposure to other people, local elected officials are starting to think about how they can do the public’s business virtually without violating the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
For the third consecutive year, Colorado lawmakers have rejected proposed legislation to address the trend among law enforcement agencies to fully encrypt their radio traffic.
At the bill sponsor’s request, a Colorado House committee killed a measure that would have significantly weakened the 2019 state law that opened records on police internal affairs investigations.
A bipartisan bill in the Colorado legislature would require the state’s judicial branch to publish higher-court opinions online in a searchable format and at no cost to the public.
A split screen might be the best way to think about government transparency in Colorado in 2019. On one side is the ground-breaking new state law that opens records on completed police internal affairs investigations. On the other is the trend among law enforcement agencies in our state to encrypt 100 percent of their scanner transmissions.