WHAT ARE PUBLIC RECORDS?
All "writings" made, maintained, or kept by the state or any agency, institution or political subdivision for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule or involving the receipt or expenditure of public funds. Records of foundations of public institutions of higher education are public records with the exception of donors and donor information. Police and court records are found in the Criminal Justice Records Act.
"Writings" includes photographs, tapes, recording, digitally stored data including electronic mail and other documentary materials in addition to books, papers and maps but does not include computer software.
Exceptions: The custodian of public records must allow any person to inspect any record unless:
1. State statutes have closed it;
2. Federal law forbids it;
3. The Supreme Court or a state court has closed the record.
WHEN CAN PUBLIC RECORDS BE CLOSED?
The custodian has the discretion to close the following records on the ground that disclosure to the applicant would be contrary to public interest:
1. Records of Investigations conducted by any sheriff, prosecuting attorney, or police department, any records of the intelligence information or security procedures of these same officials, or any investigatory files compiled for any other law enforcement purpose. (Also in Criminal Justice Act)
2. Test questions on licensing, employment or academic exams, but scores are available to person in interest.
3. Details of research being conducted by a state institution or on proposed legislation by legislative staff or Governor.
4. Real estate appraisals until title is transferred.
5. Certain information generated by the bid analysis and management system of the Department of Transportation.
6. Identifying information in Motor Vehicle license records.
7. Specialized details of security arrangements or investigations
The custodian must deny inspections of the following records:
1. Medical, psychological, sociological and scholastic achievement data. A coroner's report is open. Scholastic information is available on finalists for executive positions. Marriage license applications are closed, but marriage licenses are public records.
2. Personnel files. Personnel files include only: home addresses, phone numbers, financial information, and other similar private information maintained because of employer-employee relationship and documents exempt in other statutes, i.e. letters of reference.
3. Letters of reference.
4. Trade secrets, privileged information and confidential commercial, financial, geological, or geophysical data furnished by or obtained from any person.
5. Library and museum material contributed by private persons if they so request.
6. Addresses and telephone numbers of public school children, except to recruiting officers as decided locally.
7. Library records disclosing identity of a user.
8. Health data furnished to Health Data Commission.
9. Addresses, phone numbers and personal financial information of past or present users of public utilities, public facilities or recreational or cultural services owned and operated by the state, its agencies, institutions or political subdivisions. Includes golf courses, ice-skating rinks, etc.
10. Sexual harassment complaints and investigations under any General Assembly policy unless released by person in interest (complainant or person charged).
11. Motor vehicle records (other than traffic accident reports) are closed, except for certain specified uses, which does not include the press.
E-MAIL IS "CORRESPONDENCE":
Public records correspondence does not include:
- Correspondence not connected to official duties not involving public funds;
- Message from a constituent to an elected official or vice versa that clearly implies expectation of confidentiality;
- "Work Product" prepared for elected officials unless the official releases it.
- "Work Product" includes: Deliberative materials assembled to assist elected officials in reaching a decision, such as background information or drafts of documents expressing a decision; Drafts of bills or amendments; Research by legislative council for legislator and identified as proposed legislation. Member can request final product remain work product; otherwise it becomes public record.
- "Work Product" does not include: Final versions of documents expressing official's decision; fiscal or performance audit reports on public entity management or expenditure of public funds, or final financial reports; Materials distributed in a public meeting or identified in text of a document that expresses a decision; Documents which consist solely of factual information compiled from public sources including comparisons of existing laws, etc., in other jurisdictions or compilations of existing public information, statistics or data or explanations of general areas of law or policy.
- NOTE: Official custodian must consult with elected official to determine if correspondence is public record.
COLORADO JAIL RECORDS LAW:
Each county jail must keep a daily record of commitments and discharges of all persons and this record will be open to public inspection.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE RECORDS:
All criminal justice agencies shall maintain records that will be open for public inspection.
- Agencies involved will be any court with criminal jurisdiction and any law enforcement agency, which investigates crime or works with those convicted of crimes.
- Custodian must deny access if information is to be used for profit.
- Records can be sealed. If access is requested and denied, custodian must give written reasons within 3 days if desired. Appeals will be decided by district court with reasonable fees charged and penalties assessed by the custodian if the court so chooses.
- Public can be excluded from juvenile hearings if the court decides it is in the best interest of the youth.
- Access to juvenile records is open if the crime committed would be a felony if committed by an adult.
- Child abuse records are confidential; names of adult perpetrators are not.
COST OF PUBLIC RECORDS:
Copies may be made of any public record at a cost of not more than $0.25 per page; however, an additional "reasonable fee" may be charged for:
- Special requests for data in a form not required as a record. Requester may have to pay costs to manipulate the data. Subsequent requesters to pay same as first.
- Use of a computer program other than word processing if necessary to provide a record. Fee for a copy can recover costs of the system; however, this may be waived for public purposes, including journalists, nonprofits and academic research.
- Records "not readily available" must be provided within three working days, unless custodian in writing declares there are "extenuating circumstances," such as number of documents required. This extends access time to seven days.
To see the current Colorado Open Records Act, find C.R.S. 24-72-200 through C.R.S. 24-72-206. Access to Colorado Statutes and text of the Colorado Constitution can be found here.