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Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) David Olson General Counsel Colorado School Districts Self Insurance Pool

CSDSIP (a/k/a “The Pool”) • Member-owned insurance pool

• Formed in 1981 to provide Colorado public schools with insurance

• Currently insure 145 of the 178 School Districts in Colorado

• 36 Charter Schools

• In addition to insurance and legal support, offer risk management

education and training

CSDSIP’s Legal Resources Program (LRP) • Formally launched Aug. 1, 2013

• Goal is to provide general information, risk management,

and consultative services on legal issues that school boards and administrators encounter • Free to CSDSIP Members

Colorado Open Records Act C.R.S. ยง 24-72-201. It is declared to be the public policy of this state that all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, except as provided in this part 2 or as otherwise specifically provided by law. (Emphasis added.)

“Public Records” C.R.S. § 24-72-202(6)(a)(I). “Public records” means and includes all writings made, maintained, or kept by the state, any agency, institution … or political subdivision of the state … for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law … or involving the receipt or expenditure of public funds. (Emphasis added.)

“Writings” C.R.S. § 24-72-202(7). “Writings” means and includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics. “Writings” includes digitally stored data, including without limitation electronic mail messages, but does not include computer software. (Emphasis added.)

Examples of “Writings” • Memorandums? • E-mails (including personal e-mails from your school

district account)? • Handwritten notes/drafts? • Text messages? • Social media?

Digitally Stored Data • CORA does not require school districts to alter or

manipulate data in a form not maintained • Computer output fees may be charged, based on the

recovery of the actual incremental costs of providing the electronic services • A reasonable search and retrieval fee may be charged • A reasonable copy fee per page may be charged, too

Creation and Maintenance of Records • CORA does not require school district to create records

• School districts should have records retention/archives

requirements; follow school district policy

Creation and Maintenance of Records If a record is not subject to a statutory record retention requirement, the record can be discarded, unless: • Subject to a “litigation hold” • Subject of a pending CORA request • Violates school district policy

Responding to a CORA Request • The process** • The school district must take reasonable and good-faith efforts • Absent extenuating circumstances, records must be produced with a

“reasonable time” which is presumed to be three (3) working days after a written request is submitted • If extenuating circumstances exist, can get an additional seven (7)

working days • The records custodian can make rules that are reasonably necessary

to prevent interference with his or her regular duties ** see handouts

“May Deny” and “Shall Deny” Records • “May Deny” – CORA provides that the records custodian

may deny access to certain categories of records, such as test questions, scoring keys, real estate appraisals, and details of security arrangements • “Shall Deny” – CORA also provides protections for certain

records where the records custodian shall deny access, such as individual student records, personnel files, letters of reference, and deliberative process records

Denying Access • Can rely on the provisions under CORA for “may deny” or

“shall deny” • School districts can also apply to a court to permit the

denial of access to a “public record” if disclosure would cause “substantial injury” to the public interest • If the requesting party believes that the school district is

improperly denying access to a record, he or she can seek a court order requiring disclosure • If a court finds that the school district improperly withheld

information, the requesting party shall not only receive the record, but his or her attorneys’ fees

Questions? David Olson General Counsel Colorado School Districts Self Insurance Pool 6857 South Spruce Street Centennial, CO 80112 303.722.2600 (office) 720.251.1310 (cell)

Colorado Open Records Act (CORA)  
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