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Board of County Commissioners of Larimer County v. BizWest Media, LLC

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: 2022CV30489

Court: District Court of Larimer County, Colorado

Client: BizWest Media, LLC

Requester’s Brief Filed: Aug. 10, 2022

Background: In April 2022, Chris Wood, editor and publisher of the business news publication BizWest, filed a request under the Colorado Open Records Act seeking documents related to the job performance of two former Larimer County event center employees. The employees had been in charge of overseeing a taxpayer-funded expansion of a northern Colorado events complex called The Ranch, but development delays raised questions about project leadership.

In response to Wood’s request, Larimer County provided BizWest with the evaluation ratings of both employees. However, the county declined to release the narrative sections of the requested performance reviews and sought an order from the District Court of Larimer County barring their disclosure, citing privacy concerns.

On behalf of BizWest, Rachael Johnson, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative Attorney in Colorado, petitioned the court to order the county to release the records, arguing, among other things, that the job performance narratives are not exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law.

Quote: “In this case, the public has a compelling interest in knowing why — almost five years after voters approved of the expansion of the Ranch — Larimer County only recently broke ground on the first of the promised improvements, why expansions and new developments promised to voters have faltered, been delayed or drawn no interest, and whether the folks put in charge of the project were competent enough to manage the expansion project,” Johnson wrote in a brief filed on behalf of BizWest.

Updates: During a hearing on Aug. 15, 2022, District Court Judge C. Michelle Brinegar ordered the county to disclose certain portions of the performance reviews, including but not limited to those covering leadership goals and job duties, but not the performance narrative sections. Following the hearing, Judge Brinegar issued an order requiring the county to submit all relevant, heavily redacted records, including the performance narrative sections, for in camera review so that the judge can determine whether there is a compelling public interest in accessing the documents.

Filings: 

2022-07-26: Larimer County’s application

2022-08-10: BizWest’s brief

2022-08-16: Order regarding application