Newspaper asks city to reconsider records request denial
July 23, 2015
Steamboat Springs — A lawyer representing Steamboat Today sent a letter to the city attorney Thursday asking him to reconsider his decision not to release reports related to the police department investigation.
On July 10, the Steamboat Today filed a records req-uest for the reports prepared by Kathy Nuanes, an independent investigator who was hired by the city to look into allegations made against the department's leaders, Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle.
City attorney Tony Lettunich wrote July 15 that the reports by Nuanes are criminal justice records, and he forwarded the request to the custodian of criminal justice records at the police department.
"As to any records which might arguably be outside of the scope of the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, we are treating those requested documents as personnel records and as such, (they) are not available for review," Lettunich wrote.
In the letter, Steamboat Today attorney Chris Beall wrote that Nuanes' reports do not qualify as criminal justice records because her reports were not prepared by a criminal justice agency.
"Second, the law is abundantly clear and well settled that a report on a municipality's investigation of a city department head's conduct on the job is not and cannot be deemed to fall within the personnel file exemption of the CORA (Colorado Open Records Act)," Beall wrote.
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Beall cited the Daniels v. City of Commerce City Colorado Court of Appeals case from 1999 as well as the 2013 Carrol v. Scanlon district court case out of Pitkin County.
In the Pitkin County case, the Aspen Times newspaper had requested a copy of a report by Mountain States Employers Council into allegations of misconduct by the Basalt police chief.
"District Judge Mark D. Thompson held that the requested report was not subject to the personnel files exemption and that the refusal to disclose the report upon request was a violation of CORA," Beall wrote.
Lettunich responded to Beall's emailed letter Thursday. Lettunich replied he would like to review the matter and the relevant statutes Thursday and today.
Lettunich said he was also attempting to consult with the city's special legal counsel through CIRSA, the city's insurance company. Lettunich said the special counsel has been "advising us on these matters."