More than 10 years ago, you probably hadn’t heard of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. It wasn’t exactly called that yet. CFOIC had been an under-the-radar “council” of journalists, lawyers and citizen groups formed in 1987 to “safeguard the right of the public to information it must have to act responsibly in a free and democratic society.”
Back then, CFOIC got involved in important court cases such as the push to release the Columbine killers’ “basement tapes.” It commented on legislation affecting the open records and open meetings laws. You might have attended a CFOIC-sponsored panel discussion at the Tattered Cover bookstore.
But there was only so much a board of dedicated volunteers could accomplish. Resource-strapped news organizations needed help — every day — with questions about the open government statutes. The public at large, it turned out, needed that too. And everybody needed a nonpartisan, Colorado-centric advocate for government transparency and the public's right to know.
They needed CFOIC to be The Voice for Open Government in Colorado.
Since I started as executive director a decade ago, I’ve responded to more than 5,600 inquiries to CFOIC’s freedom-of-information hotline (a few of those questions recently led to a successful lawsuit against the Denver school board for violating the open meetings law; another led to a successful lawsuit against the city of Denver for withholding text messages). I’ve made nearly 200 presentations to journalists, students and civic groups on Colorado’s open-government laws and how to use them effectively. CFOIC has published more than 630 original articles on FOI and press-freedom issues plus seven reports researched and written by University of Denver law students. And our free, comprehensive guide to Colorado’s sunshine laws has been viewed more than 20,000 times since we created an online version in November 2021.
At the legislature, we worked with partners to modernize CORA and ensure public access to police internal affairs files. We defeated an effort to weaken the open meetings law and spoke out against lawmakers’ use of a secret-ballot system to decide bills with fiscal notes. The judiciary adopted a statewide standard, suggested for years by CFOIC, for judges to use when sealing or suppressing court records in criminal cases.
With the "new” CFOIC now in its second decade, there is much more to do — like curbing the often-high cost of obtaining public records and addressing public officials’ use of apps that automatically delete messages.
- Jeff Roberts, CFOIC executive director
More on CFOIC's history: http://coloradofoic.org/thirty-years-cfoic-idea-is-to-represent-the-public/