After Ethics Watch CORA Victory, IEC Will Release Complaint Documents
Today, the Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) advised Colorado Ethics Watch that it will release documents regarding complaints that were dismissed by the IEC but were not found to be frivolous. The IEC's decision comes in the wake of the Denver District Court's May 14 ruling in a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) case filed by Ethics Watch, in which the Court rejected the IEC's argument that all complaints that do not proceed to a hearing should be deemed "frivolous" even if the IEC did not make a finding that the complaints were frivolous. Ethics Watch welcomes the IEC's decision as a victory for transparency in Colorado.
On April 29, 2009, Ethics Watch submitted a CORA request to the IEC seeking Complaints 09-01 through 09-04, all of which had been dismissed by the IEC but not found to be frivolous, along with correspondence regarding those complaints and the ultimate decision on the complaints. The CORA request that was the subject of Ethics Watch's litigation with the IEC sought similar documents related to Complaints 08-03 and 08-04, which were dismissed in October 2008. The IEC initially refused to provide the requested documents, but reconsidered after last week's court ruling and Ethics Watch's delivery of a three day notice of intent to sue.
In the recent ruling, Judge Norman Haglund found that the IEC did not improperly withhold documents regarding Complaints 08-03 and 08-04, but only because Ethics Watch submitted its CORA request before the IEC had made a determination whether those complaints were frivolous. The Court stated that Ethics Watch was permitted to submit a new CORA request for those complaints. The IEC's decision on the pending CORA request regarding the 2009 complaints indicates that the IEC will no longer seek to hide from public view documents regarding non-frivolous complaints that are dismissed for reasons such as lack of jurisdiction or the 12-month statute of limitations applicable to IEC complaints.