If you think the cost of obtaining public records in Colorado is too high now, you’re not going to like what will happen in 2024.
public records fees
A new analysis of open records laws in all 50 states highlights several ways Colorado legislators could make criminal justice records more accessible to journalists and the public.
For those concerned about access to government records in Colorado, the 2022 legislative session was notable for what didn’t happen — the introduction of a bill addressing frustrating issues such as expensive fees, email retention and slow responses by law enforcement agencies.
COVID-19 touched nearly every aspect of our lives in 2020 so of course it affected government transparency and public access to courts in Colorado.
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.
Not only is a $50-per-record research fee not authorized in CORA, the building department’s public records policy makes no mention of providing a free hour to requesters. That is an “unequivocal violation of CORA,” said Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. The department’s justification for its research-and-retrieval fee is “simply lacking in any legal basis,” he added.
An audit finds fault with the city of Denver’s process for complying with open records requests, calling it “not as accessible or transparent as other Colorado governments.”
News organizations in Colorado will soon get some extra legal firepower to fight wrongful denials of access to government records and proceedings.
A major battle plays out daily in Colorado as some of our elected and appointed officials – all of whom took a solemn oath to serve all Coloradans – do everything possible to frustrate disclosing information belonging to the people. These fights involve access to records concerning public policies created with taxpayer dollars.
A free and independent press is fundamental — it is essential — to American democracy at all levels. But knowing that is precisely why Coloradans must begin a conversation about alternative ways to fund local journalism — even ways that involve public dollars.