Colorado schools hit with large open records request
June 7, 2010
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) – The Colorado attorney general’s office has asked more than 150 school districts for thousands of documents to help the state fight a lawsuit over school funding.
Early estimates from about a fourth of those districts say it will cost at least $300,000 in staff time and other costs to compile the records. The other districts haven’t submitted estimates.
The request, reported Sunday by the Fort Collins Coloradoan, was made under the Colorado Open Records Act.
State law allows government agencies to charge $20 an hour for time and 25 cents per page copied for documents under the Open Records Act.
It wasn’t clear how much the state would end up paying the schools. The attorney general is willing to pay “reasonable costs and fees” allowed under the law, said Mike Saccone, a spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers.
Saccone said the attorney general’s office is willing to send employees with scanners to individual districts to reduce copying costs.
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“We are taking every step to make this non-burdensome,” he said.
Saccone said the documents are necessary to defend against a suit by about 20 districts alleging the state isn’t meeting its constitutional requirements for school funding.
The districts asked to provide the documents aren’t plaintiffs. Requests for documents from opposing sides court cases is usually handled through the pretrial discovery process.
Kathy Gebhardt, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said she was concerned by the size of the records request.
“That’s money that would go to kids and that would help with education instead of copying and scanning,” she said.
The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by 14 districts in the San Luis Valley and a number of parents. Six other districts, including large ones in Denver, Colorado Springs and Jefferson County, joined later.
After several rulings on appeal, the case could go to trial next year.