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Transparency

Denver proposal aims to force disclosure of independent spending as “dark money” trickles down

Companies, groups and other big spenders who work to support or defeat candidates and ballot measures in Denver’s local elections increasingly are operating in the shadows, city officials and good-government advocates say.

Less than two years before the next municipal election, a Denver City Council proposal seeks to close transparency gaps that allow such spending to go unreported as long as the people behind it don’t coordinate directly with a candidate’s campaign.

Such activity by super PAC-style groups has mushroomed in federal and state elections since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 took the handcuffs off independent spending by corporations and labor unions, making restrictions on them unconstitutional.

Click here to read the full story in the Denver Post.

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El Paso County pays to settle sexual harassment and retaliation claim but won’t say to whom

Pam Zubeck (Colorado Springs Independent)- El Paso County’s Board of County Commissioners on July 25 approved a $67,983 settlement with a woman who alleged she was sexually harassed and retaliated against in the Sheriff’s Office, and now the county won’t say who got most of the settlement money.

And that might not be legal.

The item appeared on the BOCC’s consent calendar, a catalog of items that normally enjoys quick approval with no public comment and no commissioner discussion.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Springs Independent.

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The misdemeanor for violating CORA is going away on Aug. 9. Does that matter?

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- It’s been on the books since the state legislature adopted the Colorado Open Records Act nearly a half-century ago: Anyone who “willfully and knowingly” violates the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.

But on Aug. 9, when Senate Bill 17-040 goes into effect (barring a referendum petition against it), the criminal penalty in CORA will disappear. Lawmakers erased the provision in the same legislation that clarifies the public’s right to obtain copies of public records kept in digital formats.

Does that matter? The change leaves only one method – civil litigation – for enforcing CORA violations.

Click here to read the full story by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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Zansberg: Colorado’s Open Records Act much improved

Steve Zanzberg (The Coloradoan)- On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 17-40, which was introduced by Sen. John Kefalas (D, Fort Collins).

All Coloradans owe both men, and several other elected officials, a huge debt of gratitude. The new law makes express a guarantee that those of us in the “records requester community” had previously argued was implicit in the Colorado’s Open Records Act: the right of all Coloradans to receive digitized copies of public records that the government maintains in a digitized format.

Click here to read the full story in the Coloradoan.

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Colorado Open Records Act digital update bounds over last legislative hurdles

John Tomasic (Colorado Statesman)- The Colorado Open Records Act this year will receive a long-overdue digital-era update after Senate Bill 40 on Wednesday ended its switchback journey over the entire course of the 120-day legislative session Wednesday, finishing in the Senate with an against-all-odds unanimous vote of support.

“No one would have guessed it would receive all 35 votes in the Senate,” said sponsor Sen. John Kefalas, a Democrat from Fort Collins. “I think the bill does move the dial forward in meaningful ways and brings up the window just a tad in granting greater access to records that belong to the people.

“We have made progress. We haven’t hurt CORA. There’s more work to be done,” he said.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Statesman.

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Legislature approves open-records modernization, sends bill to governor’s desk

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- An 18-month push to update Colorado’s open-records law for the digital age culminated Wednesday in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public’s right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records.

Senate Bill 17-040 heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk after passing the House on a 39-26 vote and then repassing the Senate unanimously, all on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

The measure is intended to bar government entities from providing printouts of databases and spreadsheets when people ask for public records kept in databases and spreadsheets. No longer will governments be permitted to provide searchable records in non-searchable formats such as image-only PDFs.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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Colorado public records mediation bill gets a new trial with big amendments

Joey Bunch (Colorado Springs Gazette)- My friend and former coworker Jeffrey Roberts says legislation to help people seeking public records avoid a courtroom to get them is getting a retrial.

On the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition blog, Roberts said House Bill 1177 was reworked to create a cooling off period, a meeting between the record requester and its custodian and shared cost for mediation, which is about $75 an hour.

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed the legislation 9-0 Thursday and moves next to the House floor.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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Publisher Still Preparing to Sue Lawmaker for Calling his Newspaper “Fake News”

Jason Salzman (Huffington Post)- The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel insisted Wednesday night that he’s getting his “ducks in a row” in preparation to sue Colorado State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) for labeling the Sentinel “fake news.”

“Have you attempted to patch things up with Sen. Scott?” 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel last night, prior to panel discussion on media issues streamed on Facebook. “You’re going to be covering him for years to come. There’s nothing to be gained by media outlets fighting with public officials like this.”

Click here to read the full story in Huffington Post.

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Lawmakers endorse optional ‘cooling-off period’ to resolve records disputes without litigation

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- A Colorado House committee Thursday endorsed a completely reworked proposal to encourage the resolution of open-records disputes without litigation.

The new version of HB 17-1177 essentially makes mediation optional. If a requester files a notice of intent to sue over a records denial, a government entity would have 14 days to meet with the requester in person or by phone. A professional mediator would get involved if both parties agree and share the cost.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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Let’s discuss ‘fake news’ in a time of ‘alternative facts’

Nicole Vap (9News)- KUSA – Let’s have a conversation about “fake news” stories, and the truth.

9NEWS and Next anchor Kyle Clark hosted a panel discussion about fighting “fake news” in a time of “alternative facts.”

Our conversation included Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, will talk about his threats to sue a state senator for defamation after the senator described the paper as “fake news.” Sen. Ray Scott, a West Slope Republican, accused the Sentinel of printing “fake news” following a story about a pending bill to change the state’s public records law. Sen. Scott declined multiple invitations to take part in the interview, citing the pending lawsuit. He said he would change his mind if Seaton “swears off his lawsuit”.

You can see our full panel discussion here.

Click here to read the full story on 9News.

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