Steve Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, discussed Sunshine Week and CFOIC’s latest work Tuesday during a Facebook Live interview with Zack Newman, investigative data producer at 9NEWS.
The open records and open meetings laws allow “we the people” to hold our government officials accountable, said Zansberg, a First Amendment and media lawyer with Ballard Spahr LLP in Denver. Sunshine Week is a nationwide celebration of those rights, observed in March around the birthday of Founding Father James Madison.
“It really is the basis of the public’s trust in our public officials … We have the opportunity through these laws to independently assess for ourselves what our government is doing in our names and in ways that affect us, mostly using taxpayer dollars as well.”
But Colorado’s open government laws don’t always guarantee access. Zansberg discussed the sometimes-high cost of public records and “the number one pet peeve” – the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, which gives agencies broad discretion to withhold records upon a finding that disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest.”
“Reporters who’ve come from other states invariably tell me that wherever they came from – Texas, California, Florida, Montana, you name it – they have a much better regime than we do here in Colorado.”
CFOIC is working with other groups to promote legislation that would improve public access to one particular set of CCJRA records – completed police internal investigation files. House Bill 19-1119, introduced by Democratic Rep. James Coleman of Denver, passed the House in late February and is scheduled for a hearing March 20 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Zansberg also talked about CFOIC’s new 30-page “Guide to Colorado’s Open Records and Open Meetings Laws.” (Email CFOIC for more information.)
Watch the 13-minute interview:
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