Apr 21, 2022 - News

Denver-area media push back in pursuit of transparency

Illustration of a hand in a suit pulling a shade down on a computer screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two Denver-area news outlets are firing back at public officials for their lack of transparency.

Why it matters: Reporters depend on open government laws to keep their communities informed and hold elected leaders to account.

  • "In both cases, you have what I believe are wrongful denials of public records," Jeffrey Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, tells Axios Denver.

Driving the news: 9News and anchor Kyle Clark filed a lawsuit this month against the Douglas County School District for refusing to release a public records request.

  • The original inquiry sought the names of the teachers who staged a sick-out protest in advance of the school board firing then-superintendent Corey Wise.
  • Douglas County officials insist the request is not a public record because it was withdrawn by the requester post-submission.

Meanwhile, the Aurora Sentinel is threatening to sue the city of Aurora for allegedly violating state open meeting laws when council members made a closed-door decision involving a proposed censure of a councilperson.

  • In a letter to the city last week, attorneys for the Sentinel and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press demanded that recordings from the closed-door meeting be released or legal action would be taken.
  • The city attorney's office contends there was no misconduct and council members acted within the law.

What they're saying: In 9News' case, a withdrawn public information request remains fair game. "It was submitted to the school district — and once that happens, it's a public record," Roberts says.

  • When it comes to Aurora, "decisions aren't supposed to be made in executive session … so it makes perfect sense that a newspaper would pursue that motion," he adds.

What to watch: Aurora City Council members are now weighing a proposal that would change the city's rules around its censure process, the Sentinel reports.

  • Those in favor say the move would allow the public to offer input on whether a censure question is warranted, while opponents say the changes could create a partisan issue.
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