Personal Records Legislation in the State of Colorado
The Colorado Open Records Act or CORA for short is a government data privacy law that was initially passed in 1958. CORA has been amended several times since its creation, most recently in 2017. As Colorado is an open public record state, the law was passed for the purpose of ensuring that Colorado residents could access public records within the various jurisdictions and municipalities in which they reside, within reasonable time frames. With all this being said, CORA establishes the responsibilities that government bodies, state agencies, and other related entities within the state of Colorado have with respect to making their personal records accessible to the general public.
How are public records defined under the law?
Under the Colorado Open Records Act, public records are defined as “all writings made,
, or kept by the state, any agency, institution, a nonprofit corporation incorporated pursuant to section 23-5- 121 (2), C.R.S., or political subdivision of the state, or that are described in section 29-1-902, C.R.S., and held by any local-government-financed entity for use in the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule or involving the receipt or expenditure of public funds “Public records” includes the correspondence of elected officials, except to the extent that such correspondence is: Work product; Without a demonstrable connection to the exercise of functions required or authorized by law or administrative rule and does not involve the receipt or expenditure of public funds.”
What are the duties of government agencies under the law?
The duties that government and state agencies have under CORA as it concerns making their public records accessible to the general public include but are not limited to the following:
- Government agencies are responsible for providing Colorado residents with the means to access public information and records, at reasonable times, subject to certain exceptions. Alternatively, official custodians of government records are permitted to adopt rules and regulations that are necessary to protect personal records and information.
- In instances where public records are kept solely in digital or miniaturized forms, official custodians of government records are responsible for adopting a policy that can be used to govern the archiving, destruction, and retention of such records.
- Official custodians of records are responsible for providing copies of records to Colorado residents in a digital, searchable, and sortable format where appropriate and applicable.
- In instances where an official custodian is unable to comply with a records request in the format that has been requested, said custodian shall fulfill the request by providing the record in an alternative format, or issue a denial. In such instances, the custodian is also responsible for providing Colorado citizens with a written declaration describing the reasons why the custodian was unable to provide the requested records.
Under what circumstances can public records access be denied?
Some of the circumstances under which an official custodian employed by a government agency can deny a Colorado citizens records request include:
- Instances where the inspection of the record would conflict or run contrary to another statute within the state of Colorado.
- Instances where the inspection of the record would conflict or run contrary to federal legislation or statutes.
- Instances where the inspection of the record is prohibited under rules set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Instances where the inspection of the record would run contrary to the interests of the general public, such as test questions, scoring keys, and other examination information that is needed to attain a professional license within the state of Colorado.
- Instances where the records that have been requested are in relation to physical and cyber aspects of critical infrastructure within the state of Colorado.
- Instances where the records that have been requested are in relation to the economic function of the Colorado state government, such as information pertaining to the expenditures of public money on security arrangements, as well as the contracts that regulate such arrangements, among other things.
As the state of Colorado has made great strides in protecting the personal information and privacy of its citizens in recent years, perhaps best exemplified by the enactment of the Colorado Privacy Act in 2021, residents of the state are afforded many rights and protections that are not offered in other states around the country. To this point, the provisions of the Colorado Open Records Act provide residents with the opportunity to request access to various forms of government information, data, and records. Through such means, local governments can remain transparent with the citizens they serve on a daily basis.