Discussion over Glenwood City Council’s Colorado Open Records Act policies will be continued in a city council work session later into the summer.
City staff and council members want to meet in-person with members of the local news media — including the Post Independent, KDNK and more — to dig into their concerns over the city’s proposed policy to log all CORA requests which would be made available to the public to view on the city’s website. Anyone can make a public record request, including corporations or individuals of the general public.
CORA provides that all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, except records otherwise exempt by law or deemed not in the interest of the public.
City Attorney Karl Hanlon asked the council if they wish to post the CORA request log online, noting that the log is already maintained by the city.
“If you’d like, we could post who asked for it, what it was for, and when we fulfilled that request so people can go online and look at it and see what they’re able to download,” Hanlon said.
Federal government agencies provide a Freedom of Information Act request log that is made publicly available online.
Hanlon said such logs are a way to hold governments accountable and prove that a response was made to a request, and if that request was denied, the reasons why.
Glenwood Springs Post Independent Publisher Bryce Jacobson spoke in opposition of keeping a CORA request log, as well as city policy that requires notifying the impacted party of who requested the public records.
“That log is a terrible idea. I think that’s a bad policy, I don’t know of any municipalities that do it. I’d like to know who does that,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said that in certain situations, notifying the impacted party of someone who has requested certain public records, such as a contract for a past project that was bid out could give the impacted party an unfair advantage.
For the contractor requesting the project contracts for jobs that have been bid out in previous years, being able to see the proposed prices submitted by their competition from previous years gives them an idea of how to structure their prices in an open bid.
However, under the city’s CORA policy, the contractor who would be the impacted party of the request now knows is looking at their previous bid submissions and may retaliate against the requester competing against them.
“The fact that you have a CORA request policy that says you will notify the impacted party is just counterintuitive to the CORA request policy,” Jacobson added.
Amy Marsh, KDNK Carbondale Community Access Radio news director, said notifying impacted parties seems to set a dangerous precedent, opening up the possibility of retaliation.
Marsh asked if the request forms included in the proposed CORA request log would redact the name of a requester.
Hanlon said he didn’t know and that was not outlined in policy to his knowledge, but could be at the discretion of the city’s chief operating officer Steve Boyd, who handles CORA requests.
Mayor Jonathan Godes paused the discussion as the back and forth between council members and members of the public fits a work session format more so than a city council meeting discussion where public comments are typically limited to three minutes.
Godes and the council did open up the conversation and allowed both Jacobson and Marsh to speak more than three minutes and actively engaged in the discussions.
Continuing the discussion in a work session also affords everyone the ability to meet in person, if desired, and discuss the issue in depth to ensure the transparency and accountability in the CORA process.
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.