Tuesday, March 15, 2016

City of Denver, Public Works violates Colorado Open Records Act

Last week, the North Denver News made a Colorado Open Record Act demand upon the City of Denver's Public Works department in response to neighborhood concerns that the city was continuing to drag its feet on implementation of parking restrictions first made public in September of 2013.

Yesterday, with the statutory deadline ticking down to the last second, Public Works responded with a partial fulfillment of the request, but violated Colorado law by failing to comply.

An email from Heather Burke-Bellile, dated Monday, March 14 stated: Certain privileged emails, which are not available for public inspection, have been withheld pursuant to Colorado Statue (SIC) CRS 24-72-204(3)(a)(XIII). Personal email addresses have been redacted pursuant to Colorado Statue CRS 24-72-204(2)(a)(VII).

Aside from the ludicrous assertion that parking is an issue that rises to the level of state secret, the law requires sworn statements to accompany the withholding:

(XIII) Records protected under the common law governmental or "deliberative process" privilege, if the material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government, unless the privilege has been waived. The general assembly hereby finds and declares that in some circumstances, public disclosure of such records may cause substantial injury to the public interest. If any public record is withheld pursuant to this subparagraph (XIII), the custodian shall provide the applicant with a sworn statement specifically describing each document withheld, explaining why each such document is privileged, and why disclosure would cause substantial injury to the public interest. If the applicant so requests, the custodian shall apply to the district court for an order permitting him or her to restrict disclosure. The application shall be subject to the procedures and burden of proof provided for in subsection (6) of this section. All persons entitled to claim the privilege with respect to the records in issue shall be given notice of the proceedings and shall have the right to appear and be heard. In determining whether disclosure of the records would cause substantial injury to the public interest, the court shall weigh, based on the circumstances presented in the particular case, the public interest in honest and frank discussion within government and the beneficial effects of public scrutiny upon the quality of governmental decision-making and public confidence therein.

The city provided no such sworn statements, consistent with its pattern of not informing neighbors of changes or progress in the interminable parking process. In failing to do so, the City of Denver violated state law.

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