Garfield County getting its own open records policy | PostIndependent.com

Garfield County getting its own open records policy

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners on Monday gave preliminary approval to establish a county open records policy.

Previously, when faced with a request to view documents, county officials had simply referred to Colorado Open Records Act for handling open records requests.

As a statutory county, Garfield County defers to state law for many of its operating policies and procedures.

But now, for the county administration at least, a more detailed policy was deemed necessary, according to county attorney Andrew Gorgey, after his office fielded a number of open records requests in the past couple of months and realized there was no formal, written policy.

“It’s really more like a standardized procedure,” Carolyn Dahlgren, deputy county attorney, referring to the new policy.

She explained that historically, if any department got a request to see documents not obviously open records, that request would be sent to the county attorney’s office.

That process, she said, could cause a delay that frustrated not only county officials but the public, too.

“We’re hoping to make it more timely this way,” Dahlgren said, explaining that with a written policy, the staff of different departments can process most requests.

“Almost all records in the possession of Garfield County are open records,” Gorgey told the BOCC on Monday. “These are the public’s documents, and they have access to them.”

The same is not true of many documents held by the county sheriff’s office, the county clerk and recorder, or the county treasurer.

Each of those departments, Gorgey explained, is run by a separate elected official, and those officials typically are left to devise their own open records policies, or to adopt the county’s policy if they choose.

The new policy calls for the use of an official form to request an open record, which Gorgey said is available now through the county commissioners office (945-5004) and soon will be posted on the county’s website (www.garfield-county.com), along with instructions for proceeding with a request under the Colorado Open Records Act.

The BOCC endorsed the policy, and agreed to give the county’s other elected officials a chance to review it and, if desired, join the county administration in making this their official policy.

Following state law, the county has three business days to produce a document that is subject to a formal request, although Gorgey said the law permits up to a week in cases where the request or requests involve a large number of documents.

Copies of documents released by request will cost 25 cents per page, plus a $5 charge for a compact disc if one is requested.

In cases where the information requested has to be reworked in some way not used in the county’s own processes, under the policy, the department involved is authorized to assess additional fees.

If the requesting agency or individual does not want to pay the fees, the records may be inspected during regular business hours in the county attorney’s office, 108 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.

Records not open to public inspection include investigation documents in the hands of the sheriff’s department or the district attorney’s office, specific real estate and market analysis information related to the award of government contracts, and “specialized details of security arrangements or investigations,” according to the policy as adopted.

Also not covered as open records are medical and other information, personnel files other than for applications and performance ratings, certain privileged information such as trade secrets and confidential commercial data.

The instructions for using the county’s CORA request form also quotes the applicable state law, advising the public: “It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to knowingly make a false entry or alter any public record or to destroy, mutilate, conceal, remove or impair the availability of any public record, (which is) defined as all official books, papers, or records created, received, or used by or in any governmental office or agency.”

jcolson@postindependent.com


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