Your business is our business

atodd's picture

Next week is "Sunshine Week," celebrating transparency in government. In Colorado, the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, and the Colorado Open Meetings Law, or COML.
Before CORA was formalized in 1969, a citizen's ability to access public records was at the discretion of the custodian of the records.
A few years back, we had issue with a local school board on behalf of the public and were met with objection to obtaining emails between members because one member used a private email account.
Remind you of anyone in the news recently?
Fortunately, we were able to obtain all we needed to shine some light on the actions of the board.
Simply put, with some qualifications, any entity required or authorized by law to be involved in the receipt or expenditure of public funds is subject to CORA.
Anyone can ask to see public records, and when you follow the CORA guidelines and request public information, not only does Colorado law stipulate a three day deadline for a response, it also does not require a reason for the request, nor can the requested entity ask.
In other words, if you're doing the public's business with the public's money, it's none of your darned business why anyone wants to know what you're doing.
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition maintains a website (coloradofoic.org) with extensive resources to educate and assist citizens who want to know what their governments are doing.
As a newspaper, we lean on this law often. In recent memory, we used it to help define the issues with the Ridgway School Board in 2013. We used it again to obtain citizen submissions when the Ouray City Council solicited input from the public on personnel matters.
Our relationship with public entities is no greater nor less than any other citizen. When it comes to you and me and the guy down the street, we all chant the same refrain when it comes to elected bodies: your business is our business.