Pub­lic records me­di­a­tion bill moves to House

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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