DENVER | Colorado residents whose requests for public records are denied have just one option: Go to court.
It’s a costly prospect that deters many, if not most, from pursuing the information they want from government entities. That may change under a bill that would offer mediation as a way to quickly and cheaply resolve disputes.
The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 9-0 Thursday to send the legislation to the House floor for debate. Centennial Republican Rep. Cole Wist and Denver Democratic Rep. Alec Garnett teamed up on the measure.
At least 26 states have mediation procedures to resolve public records disputes more quickly. Ohio last year adopted a law allowing citizens denied public records to opt for a $25 mediation process subsidized by the state.
Colorado’s courts have set a $75 per-hour, per-party mediation cost in civil cases.
The measure would require a resident who intends to file a lawsuit to first discuss the dispute with the denying agency to try to get it to agree on a solution without litigation.
It leaves open the possibility that a court may award costs and attorneys’ fees to the state or local agency that denied records as well as the requesting citizen.
The bill is supported by the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association.