Court rulings top CFOIC’s 2021 list of Colorado transparency highlights and lowlights, with the most impactful paving the way for a state law change that lets governments publicly name just one finalist for chief executive positions like university president, city manager and school superintendent.
Judge A. Bruce Jones
Calling Colorado’s open-government statutes “seriously flawed” regarding the appointment of chief executives, a Colorado Court of Appeals panel decided 2-1 that a district court judge erred in ruling that the University of Colorado regents should have publicly disclosed the names and applications of all six candidates interviewed for the president’s job that went to Mark Kennedy in 2019.
Allowing the University of Colorado regents to “engage in manipulative word-play and end-run” the Colorado Open Records Act by defining the term “finalist” to mean a sole “nominee” for the CU presidency would “deal a crippling blow” to the statute, argues a brief submitted to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Tuesday by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
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.
In an extraordinary decision which can only be described as a public flailing, the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado – the governing board for the entire CU system – overwhelmingly lost a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) lawsuit in which the Daily Camera newspaper sought to force the university to disclose the six candidates who actually were finalists in last year’s search for a new system-wide president.
Rejecting the University of Colorado regents’ interpretation of the open records law as “linguistic gymnastics,” a Denver District Court judge ordered CU to produce the names and applications of six candidates interviewed for the president’s job that went to Mark Kennedy last year.
The ruling in the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit over the University of Colorado’s presidential search will hinge on whether words such as “list” and “group” in Colorado’s sunshine laws mean that the CU Board of Regents should have announced more than one finalist – or whether such words can be interpreted as either singular or plural, a judge indicated.