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.
Obtaining public records in Colorado could soon get a bit more expensive. Beginning Monday, July 1, state and local government entities will be allowed to charge a maximum of $33.58 an hour – after the first hour – to fulfill requests made under the Colorado Open Records Act.
Colorado Ethics Watch is closing its doors after 11 years of helping Coloradans hold public officials accountable and winning some significant battles for government transparency in the state legislature and in court.
More than five months after her initial request, Marilyn Flachman is finally getting the employee salary information she requested from the Westminster school district. It took four CORA letters, assistance from an attorney and $745.
For the CFOIC, revisiting 2014 reveals a somewhat troubling string of stories about issues and problems affecting government transparency in Colorado. Consider them one by one and you might not be all that concerned. But put them in a list and you could reasonably conclude that open government in the Centennial State is still a work in progress.
Public records aren’t supposed to be prohibitively expensive – that was the goal of a new state law capping research-and-retrieval fees. So we were surprised to see a $2,440 estimate to review records from a special district in Falcon.
A 2013 report illustrated the confusing and expensive landscape of “research and retrieval” fees charged to CORA requestors by various state, county and municipal government entities. One year later, Colorado Ethics Watch and CFOIC have revisited those same government entities to see if things have improved.
A month after a new statewide cap on public records fees went into effect, many governments and agencies in Colorado have adjusted their records policies to comply with the revised statute. But several have yet to post policies that conform to the provisions of HB 14-1193, even though the bill was signed by the governor in early May.
In a six-minute video, First Amendment attorney and CFOIC President Steve Zansberg explains what you need to know about the new CORA fees law and what to do if you think you’re being charged too much for public records.
At least two government entities, the city of Aurora and the state Independent Ethics Commission, have changed their open-records policies in advance of a new law, capping research-and-retrieval charges, that goes into effect July 1.