Salida City Council recently voted to make it more difficult for the “wrong” citizens to obtain public documents from the city via the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). If there is nothing to hide, what was the problem with the existing policy?
A CORA request was submitted to the city of Salida on May 15 for all correspondence from the Poncha Springs mayor to Salida elected officials or employees from 10/1/18 to 4/30/19. At first Salida said it would take more than three days to respond.
After five business days, Salida responded: “There are no documents in the City’s possession that are responsive to your request. So, therefore there are no documents subject to disclosure in compliance with the Colorado Open Records Act.”
The same CORA request was emailed to Poncha Springs – and after two business days, the following letter from the Poncha Springs mayor was included in Poncha Springs’ CORA response:
“November 12, 2018
Ordinarily I do not believe it is proper for a town/city to interject into another town’s hiring practices. Since our staffs need to frequently interface, it is important you have my input, however, about the recently hired Salida Administrator. I’m sure Mr. Nelson’s professional experience made him look like a good candidate, but his criminal history should have disqualified him, just as it would for even entry-level positions. I believe this was an oversight during the screening process and not a reflection of council’s view of domestic violence.
“The crimes Mr. Nelson was charged with … cannot be looked at as a simple human mistake or a temporary lapse of judgment. They are very serious, and considering the circumstances surrounding the incident that took place just a few short months ago, it gives me pause as Mayor of Poncha Springs to even have my staff continue contact with Mr. Nelson. At this time I will direct staff to not have contact with Mr. Nelson, and any negotiations between Salida and Poncha Springs will have to be conducted without input from Mr. Nelson.”
“We have been able to work well with all other staff and your council. My hope is that Salida City Council reconsiders the position of Administrator and hires a qualified individual with morals that the position demands.”
Lo and behold: after three weeks another response was received from Salida. The above correspondence was included, and Salida stated: “This information was not in the City’s possession at the time of your request, but is now available.”
CRS 24-72-202 (6)(a)(II) concerning CORA states: “Public records includes the correspondence of elected officials …” This document is correspondence to an elected official, so where was it for the last seven months? Who did not legally turn this document over to the city to be part of the record and why? And, what caused Salida to revisit this completed CORA now?
What’s the difference between Poncha Springs and Salida? Simple – Poncha Springs had nothing to hide.