Highlights from the blog and news feed
Mar. 30, 2016
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.
Is Lakewood city councilor's email a 'documented' Sunshine Law violation?
Colorado’s Sunshine Law is supposed to prevent more than two members of a local public body from exchanging thoughts outside of a public meeting on matters related to their jobs as policymakers. But Lakewood City Council members appear to be doing just that in a recent email provided to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
Cloudy conditions for Sunshine Week: A pile of paper instead of a spreadsheet
Aurora’s response to a reporter’s records request illustrates a common problem facing journalists and anyone else in Colorado who wishes to analyze public records kept in spreadsheets or databases. Too often, they get PDFs or stacks of paper instead. This makes analysis difficult or sometimes impossible.
Retention of government emails in Colorado 'an honor system thing'
Whether emails are retained by governments in Colorado is “really sort of an honor system thing,” State Archivist George Orlowski told us. “The senders and recipients of emails have to decide whether there’s something important that needs to be preserved.”
Zansberg: The right to inspect the public's records
Sen. John Kefalas and Rep. Dan Pabon deserve thanks for their valiant, but unsuccessful, effort to guarantee the public’s right to inspect its records. Their bill, SB 16-037, would have clarified that Coloradans enjoy the right to obtain copies of public records in the same digitized format in which government maintains those records.
RTD board member wants public review of GM contract
From The Denver Post: A proposed $300,000 contract for the new general manager of the Regional Transportation District should be shelved for now to give the public a chance to review it in detail, RTD board member Natalie Menten said.
From KOAA5 (southern Colorado): Do you have a right to know how your tax dollars are spent? Hundreds of people across our state are demanding that the financial books be opened on non-profits. This all comes after shameful spending was revealed at Rocky Mountain Human Services, a place that provides help for developmentally disabled children and adults around Colorado.
Unions fight release of school bus driver disciplinary records
From 9NEWS (Denver):The unions for teachers and bus drivers in the Cherry Creek School District went to court in an effort to block the release of disciplinary records sought by 9NEWS as part of a wide-ranging investigation of crashes involving school buses in Colorado.
From the Colorado Springs Independent: The Colorado Open Records Act is what First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg likes to call “a fishing license.” In an era when newspapers are struggling, and local investigative reporting is endangered by shrinking budgets and talent pools (some major universities have chosen to dismantle their journalism departments), a fishing license is more important to the public’s right to know than ever.
Colorado to post marijuana business information online
Editorial: Grading transparency in local government
From The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction):In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we offer our annual assessment of how well local agencies let the sun shine on their actions and if they’ve run afoul of open-meetings and open-records laws.
Colorado's judicial branch a finalist for SPJ's 'Black Hole' award
From ColoradoWatchdog.org: Colorado Judicial Branch, which has been the focus of a Watchdog.org series examining its lack of transparency, was picked as a finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists “Black Hole Award.”
Denver DA will review allegations of open-records violation by city attorney
From ColoradoWatchdog.org: Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey was concerned enough about possible violations of state open records laws by the Denver city attorney’s office that he assigned a deputy to look into the press reports, his spokeswoman said.
Zansberg: Denver city attorney lied, violated open-records law
From CBS4 (Denver): The Denver City Attorney’s Office apparently violated state open records law, which states knowingly withholding records is a misdemeanor, when officials either withheld or destroyed a critical document and said it did not exist. CBS4 has now obtained the document which city officials claimed was non-existent.
From 9NEWS (Denver): A mother, who is also an attorney, is taking on the Martin Drake Power Plant in a battle over pollution records. Leslie Weise filed suit against Colorado Springs Utilities, which is city owned, because it is not releasing a study about how much sulfur dioxide is being released from the coal power plant.
From KGNU radio (Boulder): Sunshine Week recognizes the Open Government laws that every state has and that the federal government has with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It’s an initiative from news organizations all around the country and it is celebrated during this week in March because it coincides with the birthday of James Madison, the Founding Father who articulated the need for an informed electorate for democracy to function properly.
Transparency bills in trouble in 2016 legislative session
From ColoradoWatchdog.org: The 2016 legislative session has not been a good one for transparency legislation. A bill requiring governments to provide data instead of print outs of databases died. A bill requiring nonprofits that receive most of their cash from taxpayers to be subject to open records will likely be gutted of the open records provision.
Listen: Are state agency emails too easily deleted?
From Colorado Public Radio: When reporters asked Michigan officials for e-mails about the lead problem in Flint’s water supply, they got a ton of them. But Todd Shepherd says there’s no guarantee the same could happen in Colorado. He spoke to Colorado Matters Host Ryan Warner as we mark Sunshine Week, an annual effort to shed light on the need for open and transparent public information.
From The Durango Herald: In recognition of Sunshine Week, The Durango Herald asked three municipalities, three school districts, La Plata County government and Fort Lewis College to provide purchasing invoices, credit card payments and items that went to bid for the entire month of March 2015.
From the Coloradoan (Fort Collins): Anyone who follows the Legislature knew that SB 16-037 didn’t have a chance. But that isn’t to say the call for greater transparency shouldn’t continue. It absolutely should, for the benefit of all, as information is a key to a functioning democracy.
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