Restraining order shuts schools’ e-mail | VailDaily.com
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Restraining order shuts schools’ e-mail

Veronica Whitney

As a result of a restraining order, the district went without e-mail for three hours Friday.

The school district’s First Class e-mail server was shut down from 11:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. in order for to search for files requested by Edwards resident Cacioppo, publisher of the weekly local publication Speakout, who is suing the school district challenging a teacher’s pay raise approved by voters last year.

The restraining order stemmed from a request for public records Cacioppo submitted on Sept. 5. The records included e-mails relating an alleged boycott of Speakout, said Adele Reester, an attorney for the school district.

In order to retrieve the documents requested – e-mail is covered under the Colorado Public Records law – the school district needed the assistance of a consultant, said Rick Spitzer, director of technology with the school district.

“We never promote a boycott through the e-mail system,” said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman with the school district. “The school district doesn’t know who wrote the e-mail and wasn’t involved with its distribution.”

So far, Cacioppo said, the records haven’t been available to him.

“Nobody has contacted me to tell me the documents were ready for viewing,” he said. “We are going to litigate to get access. They are in violation of the court order.”

Reester said Tuesday the school district fully complied, making the documents available for Cacioppo’s review Monday afternoon.

“We’re complying with the letter of the law,” Boyd said.

The files were searched using a software program that looks for key words or phrases. A representative from RTP Technical Services assisted the district with the search at a cost of $1,692, Reester said.

Under the Open Records Act, Reester said, Cacioppo should be responsible for the cost of this computer search.

“We have requested that he (Cacioppo) pay that bill up front, but he has refused to do it,” Reester said.

Cacioppo said he never authorized an expenditure of any amount in order to get the documents.

“I never agreed to pay anything else than for copies of the records,” Cacioppo said. “Our position is that under state law we’re entitle to view the records. (School district officials) have effectively denied us access to view the records by imposing an unlawful fee. We may first view the records and then decide if we want to purchase a copy.

“Their arguments don’t pass the smell test,” Cacioppo added.

To allow the school district to maintain state and federal confidentiality

requirements, Cacioppo wasn’t allowed to have anyone represent him while participating in the search or in the examination of materials found, Spitzer said.

“The Open Records Act and federal law doesn’t allow for the disclosure of some records,” he said.

Records protected by the Act include those concerning: medical, mental health, sociological and scholastic achievement data on individuals; personnel files; trade secrets and privileged information; addresses and telephone numbers of students in any public elementary or secondary school; student records; special education records; records of sexual harassment complaints and investigations; and records protected under common law governmental or “deliberative process” privilege.

“Personal e-mail was not examined unless it contained items specifically related to the search,” Spitzer said.

Another incident involving Cacioppo and a school district employee occurred on Sept. 6. The district employee was confronted by Cacioppo at the Eagle Fire Department’s Barbecue and Barn Dance. According to the Eagle police report, Cacioppo tried to engage the employee in a conversation while the employee was eating with his family. The district employee asked Cacioppo if the two could talk somewhere else. During the encounter, Cacioppo produced a small tape recorder. According to the police report, the district employee said he wasn’t going to have his voice recorded, and grabbed Cacioppo’s hand.

“There was some hand-to-hand contact,” said Eagle Police Chief Phil Biersdorfer. “Mr. Cacioppo was asked to leave and the school district employee was cited for disorderly conduct.”

In February, Cacioppo filed a lawsuit against the school district challenging the wording of last November’s election Question 3 D, which provided the school district with extra money as a cost-of-living adjustment to the Colorado School Finance Act. The lawsuit, which is still pending, prompted the school district to return salary amounts back to their 2001 levels, rather than include the cost-of-living raises the voters approved.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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