Grand County commissioners consider policies on open records, ethics | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County commissioners consider policies on open records, ethics

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

The Grand County Board of Commissioners reviewed several draft policies relating to open records requests, ethics and communications at its Monday, April 20, policy workshop. The board has not yet approved the policies.

Public Records

The county attorney's office has drafted a policy setting guidelines for fees for open records requests.

The policy proposes charging the statutory maximum research and retrieval fee of $30 per hour after the first hour for open records requests, while maintaining its 25-cent charge for copies after the first 10 pages.

During the meeting, Commissioner Kris Manguso proposed lowering the hourly fee to $25.

Assistant County Attorney Robert "Bob" Franek explained that research and retrieval time varies widely from request to request.

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"Some of the stuff is archived so we've got to go across the street," Franek said. "Some of it's all paper files because we just went electronic. Some of them we have to go through and redact information from it because it's confidential information, so that all takes time."

The policy will also apply to multiple requests, either on multiple request forms or multiple pages of the same form.

In the past, some parties have broken large requests into smaller increments in an attempt to skirt county fees.

Franek said he hoped the policy change would address such cases.

The county is also considering new software called OpenGov that makes accounting transactions available online to the public.

Ethics

The board of commissioners also considered an amendment to the Grand County Personnel Manual that delineates the county's ethical standards of conduct.

The proposed amendment states that employees, elected officials and boards and commissioners must observe the ethical standards set forth in the personnel manual as well as ethical standards from Colorado Revised Statutes and the Colorado Constitution.

"There is not a right way to do the wrong thing," the amendment states.

Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer said staff had used La Plata County's personnel manual as an example for the ethics statement.

During discussion, it was suggested that the county develop a code of ethics separate from its personnel policy.

Commissioner Manguso called the suggestion "the best idea I've heard."

The amendment as well as the idea for a separate handbook will be passed along to the county personnel committee before it comes back to the board of county commissioners.

Communications

The proposed communications policy delineates how departments must handle media inquiries.

The policy states that only "authorized managers" from each department may speak with the media.

The policy identifies authorized managers as department heads.

Authorized managers may only provide "basic facts" to the media, while "Category I" inquiries must be deferred to the county manager or board of county commissioners.

"Category I" inquiries are those that concern board of county commissioners policies, personnel matters, inquiries from state, national or international media and "matters that may impact Grand County's reputation," among other criteria.

Previously, department heads were required to have the county manager's express approval to speak with the media.

That policy was changed earlier this year.

Among the policy's objectives are providing accurate information to the media and public, differentiating between factual information and opinion and building the county's reputation "as being responsive to the public and the media.

All of the policy documents from the April 20 workshop are available through the county's audio streaming platform at co.grand.co.us.

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