Highlights from the blog and news feed
July 1, 2014
Newsletter of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of groups and individuals 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.
Colorado Supreme Court affirms attorneys' fees for winners of open-records lawsuits
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of those who win open-records lawsuits to be reimbursed for court costs and attorneys’ fees, even if they gain access to only some of the records they claimed were improperly withheld.
Governments change CORA fee policies in advance of new law
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.
Some governmental entities in Colorado refuse to release meeting minutes to the public until they are officially approved at the next board meeting, which could be weeks away. Is that how it’s supposed to work?
Editorial: Involving the public in Colorado highway planning
FromThe Denver Post: After the public outcry over the widening of U.S. 36 that allows a private company to manage the turnpike and collect tolls from travelers on the new lanes, the state highway department is wise to be taking a more deliberate and cautious approach to future projects.
The Colorado Department of Transportation on Tuesday launched a new online tool it hopes will “educate and engage the public about changes in transportation financing, partnerships and project delivery.”
From the Montrose Daily Press: Jet Center Partners’ months-long public records challenge against Montrose County ended in a split decision on Friday. District Judge James Schum ruled that the county correctly relied on an exemption to the Colorado Open Records Act in its refusal to release the actual proposal submitted by Majestic Skies LLC during the negotiation process for a second fixed-base operator at the airport.
Editorial: New initiative would ensure transparency in education
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs):The public’s business should be conducted in public. This common-sense traditional American value gets lost on most leaders of teachers unions, who prefer to strike deals with school boards behind closed doors.
In Colorado, 80 percent of public schools hold binding negotiations with school boards, and nearly all do so in secret. It’s not good for teachers, students or taxpayers. It mostly makes life easier for union leaders and their lawyers, who don’t want public scrutiny.
Denver TV station pulls its biggest political ad order from public site
From the Sunlight Foundation: A TV ad-buying company with close ties to Republican Party leaders reserved a whopping 1,326 spots in the Denver market this fall, but the station receiving the $740,070 contract removed it from public view when a reporter tried to learn who was footing the bill.
The deleted ad reservation at Denver’s KMGH Channel 7 came from Target Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based firm whose client list includes top Republican candidates and well-known conservative groups. Target is one of the most adamant opponents of efforts by the Federal Communications Commission and political accountability groups, including the Sunlight Foundation, to make public information about who is buying political ads.
Shepherd: State agencies stonewall, stall on deleted emails of bureaucrat
From The Complete Colorado: Two years worth of emails for IRS agent Lois Lerner have vanished, and even CNN reporters couldn’t hide their incredulity.
“I’m going to be flippant here and I don’t mean to — well, maybe I do mean to be,” CNN anchor John King began. “Do you believe in the Easter Bunny? Do you believe in Santa Claus? Do you believe that Lois Lerner’s e-mails just suddenly went ‘poof?’”
Do you believe Lois Lerner’s emails suddenly went poof? Because let me tell you this: Jo Donlin’s emails suddenly went ‘poof’ and the state has been stonewalling, stalling, and obfuscating for 5 months now – anything to keep this investigative reporter from digging deeper into an already big story.
Mayor Bach ends "privileged" Colorado Springs Utilities emails
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): Mayor Steve Bach directed the city attorney to stop labeling Colorado Springs Utilities emails, memos and documents as “attorney/client privileged” – an apparent effort by Utilities to dodge releasing information about a fire at the Martin Drake Power Plant.
Bach said Tuesday that he was unaware of a May 13 email exchange between a senior city attorney and a Colorado Springs Utilities plant supervisor that advised the supervisor to label internal documents about the Drake fire as “attorney/client privileged.” A source inside Utilities said the intent was to circumvent the Colorado Open Records Act.
City of Colorado Springs may have violated Colorado Open Records Act
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): The City of Colorado Springs may have violated the Colorado Open Records Act law when it did not provide all of the email correspondence The Gazette requested related to the city council’s fired legislative assistant.
In January, Mayor Steve Bach fired the City Council’s newly hired legislative assistant George Culpepper. At the time, the city wasn’t saying much about the issue because it was “a personnel issue.”
City attorney directs Utilities employees to label emails in effort to avoid public disclosure
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): Colorado Springs Utilities is attempting to dodge releasing information about the Drake Power Plant fire by instructing employees to include the term “attorney-client privilege” in all emails discussing the May 5 fire there.
Top supervisors in Utilities energy division told employees this would allow the publicly-owned utility to deny requests made under the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, for emails and other documents.
Editorial: Jurors won't wilt in James Holmes trial
From The Denver Post: Talk about music to our ears. Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour this week issued a strong defense of press freedom and public scrutiny of the judicial process, in an opinion as blunt and clear-headed as any in recent memory.
The occasion was a request by the defense in the trial of James Holmes in the Aurora theater shooting, which was partly supported by the prosecution, to close jury selection to the public and the media.
Routt commissioner on autopsy report lawsuit: "This ends up being a very expensive lesson"
From Steamboat Today: The Routt County commissioners agreed Tuesday to fund a supplemental budget item for the Routt County Coroner’s Office allowing the county to reimburse the Steamboat Pilot and Today for $10,287.85 in legal fees.
Those fees stem from the newspaper’s successful defense of a lawsuit filed by the coroner seeking to block the release of an autopsy report under the Colorado Open Records Act. However, the commissioners expressed some misgivings.
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