BOULDER – Boulder’s Daily Camera newspaper is seeking a review of a district court ruling that found that University of Colorado regents could refuse to disclose the names and applications of finalists for the university president’s job in 2019.
Thursday’s petition asks the state Supreme Court to determine who is considered a finalist for chief executive jobs not only at the university but at other state and local government entities under the Colorado Open Records Act. The act requires that a finalist’s identity must be publicly disclosed at least 14 days before a job offer is made. It also allows public access to records submitted by finalists.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition reported on the newspaper’s appeal.
The Daily Camera sued in 2019, seeking the names of six finalists interviewed by regents in CU’s search for a new system president. Mark Kennedy, a former president of the University of North Dakota who got the job, was the only candidate publicly identified by the university.
In 2020, a Denver District Court judge ruled in favor of the Daily Camera. That finding was overturned in March by a Court of Appeals panel that found governmental entities can determine who is a “finalist.”
A dissenting judge wrote that the opinion allows the university and other entities to “manipulate their procedures to shield information from disclosure in spite of the policies served by CORA” and Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. The open meetings law requires, in part, that meetings of two or more members of a state public body to discuss public business must be open to the public.
The Daily Camera argues that the opinion “will have a huge adverse impact on the transparency of hiring processes for University Presidents, School Superintendents, Police Chiefs, City Managers, County Administrators, and other Chief Executive Officer positions statewide.”
An email and telephone message seeking comment from CU weren’t immediately returned Friday. The CU president’s office previously has said that candidates for the president’s position should have an expectation of confidentiality and that releasing their names could jeopardize their current jobs.
A bipartisan bill pending in the Legislature would allow certain governmental entities that are seeking a chief executive to disclose just a single finalist, as in the case of a city manager or school district superintendent.
Backers of the bill say government agencies lose talented candidates when they know their names will be publicized. Opponents, including the coalition and the Colorado Press Association, say the public has a right to know who is being considered for a taxpayer-financed government position.