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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Amendment X: Freedom of Information Act in Colorado

Our colleagues at the Independence Institute in Colorado have found that state agencies have employed a new tactic to get around those pesky Freedom Of Information Act requests; charge prohibitive fees to provide public records.

Shepherd has no complaints about most of the agencies. For instance, the Northeastern Colorado Association of Local Governments in Fort Morgan sent him packets of information for each employee hired with the cash. In contrast, Northwest shipped blank bid packets, and when he e-mailed about seeing the winning and losing bids, he was told this data could only be compiled at a cost of $55 an hour -- and personnel anticipated that it would take four-to-eight hours of work to do it.

At first, he didn't smack the panic button. "It's always been my experience that the price of open records is negotiable," he says, adding, "I'm typically charged $12 to $20 an hour for open-records requests -- and usually the first half-hour or hour is free before the clock starts running." So he suggested via e-mail that they try to compromise -- but he didn't receive a reply until he followed up with a note revealing that he planned to discuss the situation on KHOW radio (which he did yesterday). Instead of caving, however, the Northwest respondent simply explained that the cost was based on contract charges and couldn't be reduced. Along the way, Shepherd contacted GEO press liaison Todd Hartman asking if that agency could help both parties find a middle ground. Nope: Hartman said the matter was between Shepherd and Northwest.

I recommend the entire article. The level of hubris from minor government officials is astounding.

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