Man ends his quest for Houpt’s official e-mail correspondence |

Man ends his quest for Houpt’s official e-mail correspondence

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A Republican activist has given up his quest for five years worth of job-related e-mails from Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt, but not without some parting criticism of her.But Houpt says she stands by her position that it was fair to require Berthoud resident Lucius O’Dell to pay the actual costs that would have been involved in producing the e-mails.In an e-mail to newspapers earlier this week titled “An Open letter to the people of Colorado,” O’Dell said he was giving up his pursuit of the e-mails of Houpt and other “liberal elected officials” in western Colorado because of the cost involved.He said his “random test” of compliance with Colorado’s Open Records Act proved his theory that “these same liberals would obfuscate and stonewall access to their records.”O’Dell also shed light on another reason for seeking the e-mails. He contends the officials are “using their positions to conspire with extremist environmental groups to block economic development” in western Colorado.O’Dell has continued to refuse to grant requests for interviews about his e-mail quest, stating in his e-mail that he wasn’t undertaking the effort as a publicity stunt or to seek press attention.O’Dell also sought e-mails from San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a Green Party member, and from the three commissioners, all Democrats, in Gunnison County.Houpt and others had speculated that O’Dell may have picked his targets based on their positions on oil and gas development in Colorado. Houpt long has sought to protect residents and the environment from drilling and recently was appointed to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry. Gunnison County has imposed its own oil and gas rules and the state Supreme Court decided in June against considering a legal challenge of those rules by the industry.O’Dell worked during this spring’s state legislative session as executive director of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a group of Republican state lawmakers espousing a conservative agenda. But the committee has disavowed any connection with O’Dell’s e-mail requests, and O’Dell said in his e-mail that he was acting on his own.Garfield County informed O’Dell that he would have to come up with about $3,700, and perhaps significantly more, to see the e-mails. The work would have involved reviewing about 7,500 e-mails to remove information that by law can be kept confidential. The county also was facing an unknown cost for paying a computer consultant to reproduce e-mails that had been purged from its system.San Miguel County also declined to reduce or waive the costs of complying with O’Dell’s request, which it estimated at about $2,500. Gunnison County met O’Dell’s request for free because it didn’t have a policy that covers charging for such requests, but officials are planning to draw up a policy for future use there.Garfield County applied the same position to O’Dell’s request that it did to the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado when that group sought e-mails related to a lawsuit it has filed against Sheriff Lou Vallario over alleged abuses at the county jail.Houpt noted that county commissioners voted unanimously to charge O’Dell for the e-mails. The other commissioners, John Martin and Larry McCown, are Republicans.Houpt also continues to maintain that she doesn’t oppose oil and gas development, but just believes it must be done responsibly to protect other industries such as tourism, ranching, recreation and hunting.”If you look at it in that light, those of us who are trying to find a reasonable and responsible balance are really trying to promote all of those economies, including energy development,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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