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November 08, 2007 09:07 PM UTC

Is Ritter's Attacker Refusing to Follow Open Records Laws?

  • by: davidsirota

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

As part of my reporting for my nationally syndicated column, I sent Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests to various legislators a month ago asking them for their correspondence with an array of operatives representing organizations and corporations with business before the Colorado legislature. According to the text of CORA, legislators are statutorily required to respond to these requests within a “reasonable time” which “shall be presumed to be three working days or less” and “shall not exceed seven working days.”

Pursuant to this law, I received a prompt response from a number of legislators, some of which detail the planning Republicans have long been engaging in to grind the upcoming legislature to a halt over giving public employees more of a voice in state government (more on this in the coming weeks).

However, I received no response from the legislator now leading the charge against allowing state workers to have a voice in their workplace – Sen. Shawn Mitchell (R). You can read my full CORA request to Mitchell in the jump of this post, which I emailed to him at his – the email he lists on his official state website.

It is difficult to believe that Mitchell’s refusal to follow Colorado state law and respond to my request is an accident. I have sent Mitchell two CORA requests – the original one, and then a reminder about the original one a month after he refused to answer. Just in case his email was down or my email got caught in a filter, I also left a phone message at his office. I still have received no response at all.

Let’s be clear – Mitchell knows the law. He is, after all, “an attorney in private practice in Denver and Adams County” and was previously Special Counsel to Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton, according to his campaign website. And as Colorado’s state government makes clear, “Under Colorado law, 18-8-114 C.R.S (1989), it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to knowingly make a false entry or alter any public record or to destroy, mutilate, conceal, remove, or impair the availability of any public record.”

What’s amazing about this, of course, is that the Colorado right-wing machine is attacking Ritter for supposedly issuing an executive order in a “back room” deal. This attack is echoed by Rep. Cory Gardner (R) on Jon Caldara’s television show, Independent Thinking (which airs in Colorado tonight and which I was a guest on as well). This, even though Ritter’s office long ago responded to CORA requests about its conversations with state workers and labor officials. This, even as Mitchell, the legislator leading the attacks on Ritter, has refused to even respond to basic inquiries he is legally required to respond to.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be investigating my options about how to get Sen. Mitchell to follow Colorado state law. I frankly have no idea whether he has any correspondence as it relates to my CORA request. He may not. But what I do know is that he is required to respond to a CORA request either way – and that hasn’t happened after repeated attempts to get him to do so.

As I said, it is difficult to believe that Mitchell’s silence is an accident – two emails and a phone message should be more than enough to get a response (just one email got a response from the other legislators I CORA’d), and certainly a month is far longer than the statutorily required limit of 7 days for a response. But I’ll wait to hear Mitchell’s explanation to make any concrete conclusions about what’s going on here – that is, if he decides to follow the law and respond to my CORA request and give me a response.

That said, if Mitchell is, in fact, simply ignoring state law, as the situation seems to suggest, there is something quite disturbing about it. State legislators are, at minimum, supposed to follow state law. There is also something quite hypocritical about a right-wing machine that simultaneously attacks a governor for supposedly being secretive when the leader of that machine has yet to follow state law and respond to the very open records request the governor himself has already responded to.

October 10, 2007

The Honorable Shawn Mitchell
200 E. Colfax
Denver, CO 80203

Dear Sen. Mitchell:

I am writing to make a request for records pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act, Colorado Revised Statutes 24-72-201. I am requesting that you provide records relating to discussions with any or all of the following individuals and groups:

1.  Dick Wadhams

2.  Hans Gullickson

3.  Sandy Fuentes

4.  Cameron Lynch

5.  Brad Jones

6.  Amy Rathburn

7.  “Face the State”

8.  Alex Cranberg

9.  Bruce Benson

10.  Bob Schaffer

11.  Focus on the Family/Focus on the Family Action

12.  Tom Minnery

13.  James Pfaff

14.  James Dobson

15.  The Independence Institute, including:

a.  Jon Caldara

b.  Jessica Peck Corry

c.  David Kopel

d.  Kay Cullar

e.  Amy Oliver

f.  Anne McIntyre

g.  Julie Mallon

h.  Nancy Miller

i.  Pam Benigno

j.  Ben DeGrow

k.  Marya DeGrow

l.  Linda Gorman

m.  Randal O’Toole

n.  Penn Pfiffner

o.  Jay Ambrose

p.  Arthur “Trey” Fleisher

q.  Kirstin Haslers

r.  Fred Holden

s.  Dennis Polhill

t.  Barry Poulson

u.  Beth Skinner

v.  Frank Zaveral

In accordance with this request, I ask that you produce copies or originals of all materials made, maintained or kept, including but not limited to:

Calendar entries
Telephone logs
Telephone or other messages
E-mails (both official and private, including e-mails that may appear in the Inbox, Sent, Trash or Deleted folders).

My request applies to all correspondence, both sent and received, involving any discussions with the individuals or groups outlined above. Please include copies or originals of any and all writings not specifically mentioned in this request but which a reasonable person would include. As the open records statute requires, a response is required within three days.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.


David Sirota
Nationally Syndicated Newspaper Columnist
Creators Syndicate


30 thoughts on “Is Ritter’s Attacker Refusing to Follow Open Records Laws?

  1. Not as a I do!

    The “Holier than thou” attitude from the R’s is going to back-fire, and Mitchell is going to be in quite a bit of trouble unless he starts following the law.

  2. Or is it Clay Bertrand?

    And don’t forget the following:

    David Ferrie
    Dean Andrews
    Vernon Bundy
    Guy Banister

    Oh, and one more, Lee Harvey!!  Or is it Ted Harvey??

    Anywho, let me know how your investigation goes!

          1. that your ilk take the law far too lightly. David Sirota is a patriot, a hero and a great American. He’s educated, well informed, serious in his endeavors, and successful….something we hope you grow up to be.

            1. Am I being lectured by someone who likes to call people “the antichrist” when they respectfully disagree with him?

              Check yourself, silly guy.

            2. David Sirota is doing the same thing the rightie did this summer when issuing a CORA request to west slope commissioners.

              No difference at all.  Make elected officials spend hours and hours colecting emails and documents when they have nothing better to do (apparently).

              Is that Sirota’s conclusion?! Mitchell, Gardner and the ilk are going to fight the Dems this session and have planned how to respond to the Dems’ strategy?!

              Well, whoopdee doo.

              And Robin – Davie boy isn’t a patriot/hero/great American – he’s a columnist and a mediocre one at that.

            1. It’s all good, and I understand where you’re coming from, but what you’re doing is basically an ad hominem attack on Mitchell.  Because he rejected the Governor’s EO, you are now trying to make life difficult for him by implying that he’s part of some giant conspiracy for disagreeing with giving collective bargaining to State workers.

              None of this is life and death, y’all.  It’s just the game – please just don’t act like you’re not a part of it.

                1. Was it pre-emptive on the part of Labor and the Dems, knowing Mitchell was going to go ape-shit after the way the EO was snuck in there basically after news hours on a Friday afternoon?

                  It’s clear that this is a concerted effort – calling Mitchell an “attacker” in the headline, and the fact that Pols seems to be a Labor-run website (please correct me if I’m wrong – I may be).  Again, no problem, but if true, why wasn’t that just disclosed?  I couldn’t see that hurting your participation from anyone – certainly not me – I’ve learned a ton interacting on this site.

                  Also, I’m not too familiar with CORA (I glanced through the link) – is it simply asking for all official written and electronic correspondence with all the named folks?

                    1. Are you telling me that the people who run and post as Pols on the website are not employed by Labor?

                      Again, no biggie.  I’m being serious – love the blog – it’s really a great effort, but my understanding is that it’s run by Union employees. 

                      I might be wrong. Please just let me know.

                    2. We’ve been accused at various times of being run by:

                      – Tim Gill
                      – Marc Holtzman
                      – Jared Polis
                      – Pat Stryker
                      – The Democratic Party
                      – Big Labor

                      Seriously – which is it?

                    3. Just asking.

                      So, just to be clear, whoever I’m corresponding with is not employed by a Labor union?

                      Not that it would impact the headlines or anything…

                    4. But please, please don’t ask if we work for Dr. Evil, because you might be in for an uncomfortable silence.

                    5. any labor union,association or organization.  I will be posting about the “right to freeload” radical constitution attack as often as I want to.  I will also write about supporting working families, again, as often I want to.  Please try to understand that Progressive people have the ability to think and act for themselves without need of direction from anybody else.
                      We want a better America for all citizens.

  3. If Mitchell loses in court, I believe he has to pay court costs.  It would be an excellent support to citizens in Colorado if someone would enforce CORA. I hope you do that.

    1. Not only court costs, but your attorney fees as well!

      Send it to him one more time – this time certified mail.

      Mitchell should know better – he has filed CORA requests himself in private practice. I can only assume there must be some sort of emergency situation going on with him.

      1. The one thing you have to watch out for is “hidden costs”..the public official or agency can charge you not just up to .25 a page for copying but the cost of labor to retrive the items….†his is potentially a big issue …..The CORA law is an excellent law but one of the few where elected members of both parties have motivation to undermine it…

        Take him on, David….

  4. Sirota is not the only one being ignored. Mitchell has also taken an aggressive stand against any health care reform. I submitted the following request by e-mail and US Mail on September 28th and it has received exactly the same response as Sirota’s, i.e. total silence.

    Honorable Senator Shawn Mitchell
    200 E. Colfax
    Denver, CO 80203

    Dear Sen. Mitchell,

    Please consider this to be a written request for records pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act, Colorado Revised Statutes 24-72-201.

    I am respectfully requesting records dating from January 1, 2006, relating to: 
    1. Any discussion regarding pharmaceutical and prescriptions drugs and medication and the pharmaceutical industry.
    2. Any discussion related to the corporations Eli Lilly and/or AMGEN, including discussions with Margaret-Mary O’Keefe, Axiom Strategies, Joan Solem, Colorado Legislative Services, LLC, Cole Finegan, Melanie Layton, Robert Mintz and James Cole.
    3. Any discussion related to the Colorado Pharmacists Society and discussions with Elsie Lacy.
    4. Any discussions regarding health care reform with members of the Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform. Specifically to include but not limited to:
    ? Christy Blakely, Director, Family Voices
    ? Linda Gorman, Director, Health Policy Center, Independence Institute
    ? Pam Nicholson, Sr. Vice President, Advocacy and Community Partnerships, Centura Health

    Accordingly, I ask that you produce the following material:

    Copies or originals of all materials made, maintained or kept, including but not limited to documents, memoranda, calendar entries, telephone logs, telephone or other messages, and e-mails (both private and public, to include e-mails that may appear in the Inbox, Sent, Trash or Deleted folders). This request applies to all correspondence, both sent and received, regarding the topics outlined above.

    Please include copies or originals of any and all writings not specifically detailed herein relating to the above enumerated actions but which a reasonable person would include.

    Thank you for your cooperation. I look forward to receiving a response within the three-day statutory time limit.

  5. If Mitchell continues to ignore your request and you do not take him to court, the law is immeasurabley weakened.  For those of us who would not in our wildest dreams have the money, initially, to go to court, even if we were to finally prevail, this becomes a defeat. Public officials can ignore the law with impunity.  Using their lack of compliance as fodder for a column is good for you. But, lack of follow through is bad for us.

    Everybody’s watching. Mitchell flaunts the law. You just stamp your foot and go on talk shows and say “naughty, naughty, conservatives.”  Not enough.

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