The Independence Institute has filed a lawsuit against Connect for Health Colorado for refusing to turn over emails requested under Colorado’s open records law.
The health exchange has been stonewalling Todd Shepherd, an Independence Institute reporter and editor of The Complete Colorado, with claims the requests were unreasonable, overly broad, and a “fishing expedition.”
We don’t even know what story Shepherd was working on, but the open records request looks pretty darn specific to us.
As in, specifically, Shepherd asked for the emails of three specific health exchange employees during a specific two-day period. That’s specific enough to signal Shepherd’s specific intentions as to what specific story he was writing.
So the request was denied by an official who whined that it was “potentially substantial and administratively burdensome” as each email had to be reviewed for privileged information, reports the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
Shepherd narrowed the scope even further to a one-day period, denied. He finally asked for the emails between two employees during a five-hour period. Surprise, it was refused as well.
If this is a fishing expedition, remind us never to get on a boat with health exchange officials or we’ll be sitting at the dock all day.
“It is not reasonable to review ‘all emails’ on all topics for even one individual,” said Alan Schmitz, the exchange’s general counsel who appears to be angling for a job on Hillary Clinton’s crisis communication team.
“The public policy behind CORA is not to promote fishing expeditions,” Schmitz wrote, adding that “this is exactly why” the open-records statute allows records custodians to “make rules as are reasonably necessary to prevent unnecessary interference” with the discharge of their duties.
The Independence Institute contends that Connect for Health Colorado “failed to undertake a legitimate, thorough and reasonable search for documents” responsive to Shepherd’s requests.
The health care exchange, the lawsuit says, should be ordered by the court “to show cause” why access to the emails should be withheld from the Independence Institute. The suit also asks the court to allow inspection of the documents and to award the think tank court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
There is nothing in Shepherd’s request that was unreasonable.
If the health exchange thinks this is a fishing expedition, just wait until the state auditor comes knocking on its door.