Vail Daily letter: Open records fatigue in Eagle-Vail
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily is looking into the allegations contained in this letter.
Want copies of those records? Sorry, we do not have them. No! This is not a denial of access to records; we simply cannot provide records we do not have. Please! We have fulfilled our obligation under the Colorado Open Records Act and have provided all the records we have maintained. Consider this matter closed!
That was the response this old Eagle-Vail gal received from the District Community Manager to recent records requests filed. The records I requested were for contracts subject to the Colorado conflict of interest statutes that mandate that no contract for services, regardless of the amount, shall be entered into between the District and a member of the Board unless a notice has been published, and the statutes require the District to demonstrate compliance or face penalties if violations occur.
Some of the records I requested were provided, but most were not. I wasn’t requesting top-secret documents or asking for the Community Manager’s social security number, for Pete’s sake. I just wanted copies of the most basic procurement documents. When I asked the District to cite the legal grounds for withholding the records, the District’s response was simple — we do not have them.
So here is the Eagle-Vail taxpayer Catch 22 conundrum, as this failed records applicant comprehends things. I will just use the first step of the procurement process (the published advertisement for bids stating scope of work and terms) to explain. Believe it or not, the District does not appear to maintain that record. Nor does the District maintain copies of the bids received or a file copy of the publisher’s invoice in the contract file.
It appears that the reason the District does not maintain those records is because the District’s procurement and records-retention policies do not require that they be maintained on such contracts. The Colorado Open Records Act isn’t much help, either, as it only addresses legal steps that can be taken by the records applicant if “access to the records is denied.” It does not cover steps to take if the District doesn’t even have the records to deny.
Of course, there are legal steps one can take to report perceived conflict of interest law violations, but that could be very costly, as doing so would most likely necessitate hiring an attorney to file the violation.
My comprehension of things could be wrong, but it appears to me that the only way for Eagle-Vail taxpayers to counter violations and ensure transparency and accountability is for the District to designate this conundrum an “action item” and take immediate steps to amend existing procurement and records retention policies to require that all records for such contracts be retained for at least two to four years.
I cannot think of any reason why the District would object. Can you?