Highlights from the blog and news feed
Feb. 13, 2017
Newsletter of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of journalists, civic organizations and engaged citizens dedicated to ensuring the transparency of state and local governments in Colorado by promoting freedom of the press, open courts and open access to government records and meetings.
Commentary: It's time to bring Colorado's open-records act into the 21st century
For half a century, public records laws have been indispensable tools for disproving “alternative facts” and getting to the truth about government spending, activities and decision making. But in our state, the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) is showing its age, especially regarding access to the myriad records maintained in spreadsheets and databases by state agencies, cities, counties and other taxpayer-funded entities covered by the law.
Bangert: Those 'pesky, pesky laws' will guide us when it comes to government transparency
The Greeley Tribune: Not every public official or every government entity we cover is guilty of trying to bypass the Colorado Open Records Act. But a couple recent examples have reminded me that transparency in government can be an annoying, pesky, downright difficult concept to follow.
Seaton: A false character assassination that can't go unchallenged
The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction): A tried-and-true method for avoiding accountability is to undermine the credibility of the speaker. When Sen. Scott asserts that The Daily Sentinel is “fake news,” he intends to diminish The Sentinel as a purveyor of reliable information.
The Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado government entities can make access to public records virtually impossible, or at least very difficult to review simply by putting the information into a format that is far from user-friendly. That’s why we support state legislation, Senate Bill 40, to require government officials to release data, if requested, in a “structured data or searchable format.”
Court of Appeals drops contempt citation against clean-air advocate in records dispute
The Gazette (Colorado Springs): The contempt citation sought against clean-air activist Leslie Weise, and her appeal of a lower court ruling, both were dismissed by the Colorado Court of Appeals. Weise and Colorado Springs Utilities – which sought the contempt citation – are to pay their own attorney fees and court costs, according to the agreement.
Editorial: With free speech, the where and the when can be as important as the why
The Denver Post: A bill before the Colorado legislature seeks to send a clear message in support of free speech on college campuses that we are quick to appreciate, and we hope lawmakers find a way to make it law.
The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction): Open records shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We have a difficult time understanding why anyone would oppose easier access to government data, which belongs to the public.
Crawford mayor survives vote to recall her over alleged Sunshine Law violations
Delta County Independent: Those demanding the recall of Wanda Gofforth charged that she had wasted taxpayers money, failed to follow Colorado Open Meetings statutes, and had exceeded her authority as Crawford mayor.
New efforts launched to change Colorado's Open Records Act
Associated Press: Democratic senator is trying again to modernize Colorado’s Open Records Act with a bill that would require government agencies to release public records in searchable data formats, like Excel spreadsheets, that are easy for the public to analyze.
High Plains library board withholds terms of settlement despite public vote
The Greeley Tribune: The High Plains Library District Board agreed to settlement terms with Weld County and surrounding municipalities, bringing to an end nearly three years of litigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The terms of the settlement, however, are being withheld despite a public vote by the public body.
Editorial: SB-40 deserves legislature's support to move records act into digital age
The Greeley Tribune: It seems like a slam dunk that if a taxpayer-supported government entity has a public record in a digital format — such as a Microsoft Word or Excel document, or a PDF, to name a few examples — they should release the document in its natural electronic condition, instead of in a printed, hard-copy version.
Could more transparency come to Colorado this year?
The Colorado Independent: Colorado’s Open Records Act is an old law with some outdated provisions in it. Last year, state legislation failed that would help align the law with our changing times and technology. So this year lawmakers will try again.
Campus free speech bill wins surprise unanimous committee support
The Colorado Statesman: The debate over student free speech, campus safe zones and political correctness moved into the Colorado Capitol and took a surprise turn when three Democrats joined with four Republicans on the Senate education committee to unanimously advance a campus free speech bill sponsored by arch conservative-libertarian Sen. Tim Neville.
Editorial: Open-records changes still needed for transparency
The Denver Post:There are many ways government entities avoid releasing information they’d rather the public not know, but among the most frustrating for the public and the press is when governments refuse to release data in an electronic and searchable format.
Colorado House gives preliminary nod to ballot selfies
The Denver Post: The Colorado House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to a bill making it legal to post ballot selfies. The bill comes after a federal judge ahead of the November election suggested that the state’s 125-year-old law banning voters from showing completed ballots violates free speech rights and imposed a temporary injunction blocking its enforcement.
Montezuma County plan for TV broadcast opens up public records issue
The Journal (Cortez): The Montezuma County Commission has agreed to draw up a $9,600 contract with Mesa TV to live-stream county meetings, and rebroadcast edited versions at a convenient time. Although the deal’s stated purpose is to provide more access to meetings, it raises questions regarding Colorado open records law.
Loveland city council emails take turn toward secrecy
Reporter-Herald (Loveland): While the city of Loveland is accepting applications for a new city attorney, the interim city attorney has implemented an email policy that some say goes against the spirit of transparency and of the state’s open records law.
Longmont library creates program to help people decipher real and fake news
9NEWS (Denver): Fake news has become a huge problem in this day and age. It’s been around for awhile, but was really brought to light during the presidential election. The Longmont Library wants to help people decipher between what’s real – and what’s not.
The Pueblo Chieftain: The Colorado court system has placed itself above the rest of state government by declaring the judicial branch exempt from the Open Records Act. The judicial branch’s self-serving position flies in the face of the courts’ own cherished rule of equal protection of the laws. It’s reminiscent of George Orwell’s satirical book Animal Farm in which he wrote, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Having your FOI request denied may leave no other option than pursuing legal action against the rejecting public agency or official. The National Freedom of Information Coalition offers financial support to litigate open government lawsuits through the Knight FOI Litigation Fund. Backed by a generous grant from the Knight Foundation, the fund helps to defray upfront costs such as filing fees, depositions, court costs and other expenses associated with legal actions. Applications may be submitted through CFOIC or directly to NFOIC.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that relies on membership dues, grants and gifts. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or becoming a member. Thank you!