Man crusades for officials’ e-mails |

Man crusades for officials’ e-mails

Dennis Webb
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Only one person seems to know exactly what Lucius O’Dell is looking for in requesting years worth of e-mails from some Western Slope county commissioners.

That’s O’Dell, and he isn’t talking.

But one thing is becoming clear. The price he may have to pay to obtain those records won’t be cheap.

Garfield County commissioners this week unanimously decided against giving O’Dell a discount on his request for five years of public e-mail from Commissioner Tresi Houpt.

That means O’Dell would have to come up with about $3,700, and perhaps significantly more, to see the e-mails. San Miguel County commissioners recently declined to waive or reduce the cost for providing five years of Commissioner Art Goodtimes’ e-mails. The county says complying with O’Dell’s request will cost him about $2,500.

O’Dell, whose correspondence to Garfield County carries a Berthoud mailing address, also has targeted the e-mails of all three commissioners in Gunnison County.

Just what he’s up to remains a mystery. O’Dell has failed to respond to interview requests. That’s left Houpt, Goodtimes and others to speculate as to O’Dell’s motives, which they believe may be partisan, and possibly related to oil and gas issues.

O’Dell worked during this spring’s state legislative session as executive director of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a group of Republican state lawmakers espousing a conservative agenda. Houpt and all the targeted Gunnison commissioners are Democrats. Goodtimes is a Green Party member.

However, the committee is disavowing any connection with O’Dell’s effort.

“This has nothing to do with RSCC,” said state Rep. Kent Lambert, the committee’s chairman.

Some targets of the request think it may be related to oil and gas because of Gunnison County’s involvement in a legal case testing its ability to regulate the industry, Houpt’s recent and successful effort to be appointed to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Goodtimes’ positions on energy issues.

O’Dell’s first letter to Garfield County requesting the e-mails suggested at least a partial motive. He called it a “random sample and test” of the effectiveness of Colorado’s open records law and the county’s responsiveness to it. He also indicated a willingness to pay “reasonable” expenses related to the request.

On June 20, county attorney Don Deford wrote to O’Dell that the county would have to review about 7,500 e-mails to remove information that by law can be kept confidential. He determined that the work probably would take 20 hours each for Houpt, an attorney and paralegal to accomplish, with information technology staff also having to assist.

Houpt said she doesn’t have a problem producing her e-mails. “But as a county we want to make sure that the cost of doing that is paid up front,” she said.

She said such requests are time-consuming, and taxpayers shouldn’t end up footing the bill.

She called O’Dell’s request “onerous.”

“I think he’s fishing for something because he gave no solid reason for making this request, so it’s offensive but I have nothing to hide,” she said.

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