Highlights from the blog and news feed
Dec. 21, 2015
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.
Court of Appeals hears arguments in dispute over disclosure of Jeffco teacher sick-leave records
An attorney for the Jefferson County Education Association argued that a district court judge erred in ruling that teacher sick-leave records do not qualify as personnel information that must be withheld from the public.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have no problem getting public information in a format that allows for searching, sorting and aggregating. Too often, however, database records are released in a format that makes analysis difficult, or they’re not released at all.
Proposed 2016 bill would open records of nonprofits serving people with disabilities
Prompted by the recent financial troubles of a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, a state lawmaker plans 2016 legislation to open the records of all such agencies in Colorado that receive more than half their funds from public sources.
Bipartisan 'odd couple' pushes for greater access to public records
From The Colorado Statesman: In an unusual pairing of players from opposite sides of the political spectrum, state Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, and state Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, are working with liberty-politics lightning rod Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute to update Colorado’s Open Records Act for the digital age.
Clear Creek commissioners again run afoul of Open Meetings Law
From the Clear Creek Courant (Clear Creek County) A meeting among two Clear Creek county commissioners and a local business owner has once again raised questions about the board’s failure to follow the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
Basalt mayor violates Open Meetings Law, town manager says
From The Aspen Times: Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law by sending an email to other council members that criticized the town staff for its handling of a land-use review application, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon.
Steamboat Springs chief will create new summary of police investigation for public
From Steamboat Today (Steamboat Springs): Responding to a public outcry and calls from community members for more transparency, the Steamboat Springs City Council reversed a previous decision and voted unanimously to give the public a more thorough summary of a recent internal police investigation.
Jeffco school board gets some open-government training in an open meeting, after all
From the Canyon Courier (Evergreen): Jeffco’s new school board heard an overview of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law and Open Records Act during a public meeting before moving behind closed doors to ask specific questions.
St. Vrain district now says bus crash video, which it wouldn't release, doesn't exist
From the Times-Call (Longmont): The St. Vrain Valley School District now says video footage from a bus that crashed on Colo. 7 last week injuring five students doesn’t exist, days after saying they would refuse to release it.
From The Denver Post: Groups that work with our most vulnerable citizens and that receive more than half of their funding from federal, state and local sources should have to comply with the state’s open records laws. But they don’t, which is why legislation proposed by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, that would open these non-profits to heightened accountability is so welcome.
Jeffco school board president rethinks executive session on open records/open meetings advice
From The Complete Colorado: School Board President Ron Mitchell changed plans for how to handle an executive session to receive legal advice on the Colorado Open Meetings Law and the Colorado Open Records Act. “We realized that we have created an issue for some people,” he said. “So we have developed a compromise.”
Jeffco school board to get sunshine laws training – in secret
From the Canyon Courier (Evergreen): Jeffco’s five new school board members will take about two hours at their next meeting to hear legal advice on “the Colorado Open Meetings Law, the Colorado Open Records Act, conflicts of interest and standards of conduct for local public officials.” The sunshine-law training will be held behind closed doors in an executive session.
Jeffco's recall free-for-all spurs call for campaign-finance reform
From the High Timber Times: An ethics watchdog group has called for state campaign finance reform in the wake of the release of contribution figures from the Jeffco school district’s contentious recall election.
Why are court records sealed in Planned Parenthood shooting?
From Colorado Public Radio:Immediately after the attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, many people wanted to know alleged shooter Robert Lewis Dear’s motive. But law enforcement documents, including the arrest and search warrants, that could provide insight into that question were sealed the day of the attack by Judge Stephen Sletta at the request of prosecutors.
Jeffco commissioner's open-meetings objection off track
From the Columbine Courier (South Jefferson County): A drawn-out drama involving a proposal to add striped bicycle lanes on certain roads veered into strange territory when County Commissioner Don Rosier accused fellow Commissioner Casey Tighe of violating the state’s Open Meetings Law by talking to a reporter.
Editorial: Robert Dear Jr. case should be open to public scrutiny
From The Denver Post: Government should not operate in secrecy. The ability to arrest, imprison and put people to death are among government’s most significant powers. That process should be as open as possible.
State public defender releases aggregate spending on death penalty cases
From The Denver Post: Under Colorado law, the public defender’s office says it is prohibited from revealing or discussing details about individual cases. As a result, the office did not release the names of the defendants in the 10 cases or a breakdown of costs for each case.
Defense attorneys in Planned Parenthood shooting case seek gag order
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): Attorneys for Robert Lewis Dear, Jr., the man suspected of killing three people in a Nov. 27 shooting rampage, have filed a motion in El Paso County court to limit pre-trial media coverage of Dear’s case. The motion, if granted, would place a gag order on all attorneys, law enforcement investigators and anyone else connected to the case.
From The Denver Post: The purpose of the open meetings law is to provide the public with insight into how policy is made and how their leaders vote. This lets the public help shape policy or determine whether or not to re-elect their officials. Yet when it takes years to resolve violations, how can the public do that?
Editorial: Denver should release jail video as soon as possible
From The Denver Post: Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman faces his first big challenge in the case involving the death of inmate Michael Mitchell. We hope Firman and the city have learned that keeping videos of these troubling incidents from the public for an extended period of time is the wrong approach.
Editorial: A fair cost for election records request
From The Denver Post: The Denver Elections Division is doing the right thing by charging just $25 to comply with a complicated records request by election integrity activist Harvie Branscomb, who is seeking to audit the accuracy of voting equipment being tested as a part of a state pilot program.
Transparency in police shootings: Questions of race in Colorado
From FOX31 (Denver): The Colorado State legislature recently passed a bill (SB 217) which forces police agencies to report details surrounding each time they fired a gun at a person within the past five years. Lawmakers expect a full analysis from the Department of Criminal Justice next spring, but FOX31 Problem Solvers didn’t wait. We pulled the raw data ourselves.
Pagosa Springs faces lawsuit over executive session
From The Pagosa Springs Sun: A local resident has filed a complaint in District Court against the Town of Pagosa Springs alleging that the town violated Colorado Open Meetings Law in a Sept. 17 executive session.
Hancock administration's 'transparency' about jail inmate's death hard to see
From The Colorado Independent: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration says it’s “committed to transparency” about the death of Michael Lee Marshall after sheriff’s deputies restrained him at the city jail. Nevertheless, the city is refusing to make public any information about the deadly incident.
Air Force releases highly redacted documents on academy's cadet information program
From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): After a delay of nearly two years, the Air Force released 250 pages of records on its use of cadet informants at the Air Force Academy. But most of the pages released are all but blank.
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