(Rules for thee, but not for Matt Soper — Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Despite telling a radio host that he used a “group chat” to direct his House Republican colleagues to walk out on the Legislature’s final day, state Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta) now claims he has no record of that chat message. The same goes for all members of the House Republican leadership, who jointly responded to the Colorado Times Recorder’s open records request by saying they have “no responsive records.”
Speaking to KNUS radio host Deb Flora on May 9, Soper claimed credit for leading the GOP protest on the final day of the legislation session, when Republicans walked out of the House chamber. Soper said he directed his GOP colleagues to leave via a group chat.
Soper: “They were running an amendment. So we have the Rule 16 vote. We were talking. Do we walk out? Do we not walk out? And we have a group chat. And I wrote, ‘Walk, Walk now.’ And there was still some negotiations about, well, do we wait for two more of these votes? And I just packed up my bag, stuck my laptop in it, walked around to the front, and I walked straight down the center aisle.”
So how can Republicans say they have no records after one of them publicly described the content, date, and time of a specific message he says he sent?
The question highlights a glaring hole in Colorado’s Open Records Act (CORA): there isn’t any requirement for lawmakers to preserve emails or other digital communications. In fact, the state Legislature recommends its elected officials delete their emails after 30 days.
“CORA does not contain a specific requirement regarding the length of time a custodian must maintain a public record,” explains the state office of Legislative Legal Services. “Custodians and agencies can make their own determination of the appropriate length of time a record must be kept or archived. For example, the policy adopted by the Colorado General Assembly recommends the deletion of electronic mail messages within 30 days in most circumstances.”
Furthermore, open records requests can only be fulfilled if the requested records still exist. Most common messaging apps such as Signal can be set to delete messages automatically after a certain number of days, hours, or even immediately after reading. Presuming that Soper and his colleagues were using one of these apps, the messages could very well no longer exist.