The Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) is meant to provide a way for citizens to have access to the records of the various government entities operating in our State and applies to ALL levels of state government. The problem is that it is easy to use the “letter of the law” to circumvent the intent of the law.
In working to oppose the Mill Levy Override Tax Increase in Thompson School District we have made some CORA requests and the district while claiming there is transparency in their organization is using the law to prevent open access to records.
If Thompson School District wants the citizens to TRUST how they spend their money and are asking for citizens to give more money then one would think the district would want to be as open as possible with ALL citizens.
We requested information regarding:
A check issued to Taste Catering for $600 which the memo stated was for a retreat on August 5th held by Dr. Cabrerra: asked the district to provide the pupose and location of the retreat, total cost for the retreat and who attended the retreat. Estimated charges: 2hours x $25 per hour
Two checks issued total $1,344.60 for a retreat 6/20-6/24: asked the district to provide the purpose and location of the retreat, total cost for the retreat and who attend the retreat.
10 checkes issued totaling $4,923.90 for a retreat 7/27-7/29 in either Vail or Beaver Creek: asked the district to provide the purpose and location of the retreat, total cost for the retreat and who attended the retreat.
the estimate to provide this BASIC information that any credible accounts payable and/or HR department should track, is 3 staff members for 2hours each at a total estimated cost of $150
The districts response to my questioning the above estimated charges (totaling $200) in partial is:
“CORA’s premise is to make existing records available. Sometimes the requests received extract easily from our base systems and reporting because they align with the reporting mechanisms that we use. Our annual budget and annual financial report are examples of this — they take no effort, require no extra staff time to generate because they already exist. What you request requires customized reporting and is requiring creation of a new record. Pulling together this information takes staff time and it takes time away from their normal duties.” (bold emphasis is mine)
QUESTION: How can the district be efficiently and effectively managing our money if the finance and/or Human Resource department are not tracking and reporting on the total costs for retreats? How does the district monitor the effectiveness of a retreat if they don’t know who went, why they went, the purpose of the retreat?