Case Number: 2022CV30927
Court: District Court, Arapahoe County, Colorado
Client: The Sentinel Colorado
Application for Access Filed: May 23, 2022
Background: On March 18, 2022, Max Levy, a reporter for The Sentinel Colorado, submitted a public records request seeking access to the recording and meeting minutes of a March 14 executive session of the Aurora City Council related to the censure of Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky. The council had initiated the censure process in January 2022 after Jurinsky called the Aurora police chief “trash” during an appearance on a local radio show.
The city denied the request, claiming that the recording is a privileged attorney/client communication and exempt from public disclosure. But the closed-door session did not, in fact, involve attorney-client communications. As Levy reported, the city unlawfully convened the executive session under the guise of receiving legal advice when it actually met to discuss, and vote on, ending Jurinsky’s censure process.
On behalf of The Sentinel, Rachael Johnson, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney in Colorado, filed this application asking the Arapahoe County District Court to order the city to release the recorded session in its entirety. The newspaper argues that the city violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law by holding a secret vote on the censure without advance public notice. Additionally, The Sentinel argues that the city’s refusal to disclose the recording and meeting minutes is a violation of Colorado’s Open Records Act.
Quote: “The facts of the case speak for themselves as to the legality and appropriateness of handling such a public matter in private,” said Dave Perry, the editor and publisher of The Sentinel. “The censure of an elected official demands the public’s attention, and the public was wrongly deprived of that opportunity by holding this meeting and making a crucial decision in secret.”
Updates: After reviewing the March 14 executive session recording in camera, the district court issued an order on July 26, 2022, requiring it to be turned over to The Sentinel. After the Aurora City Council filed a motion for reconsideration, however, the district court held that the recording could be withheld, concluding that the council had cured any Open Meetings Law violations when it held a regular meeting about the executive session on March 28, 2022. The Sentinel appealed the district court’s ruling to the Colorado Court of Appeals. On Dec. 7, 2023, a panel of the Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and ordered the city council to turn over the executive session recording to The Sentinel. On Jan. 24, 2024, The Sentinel asked the Colorado Supreme Court to review the decision of the Court of Appeals denying The Sentinel attorneys’ fees on the ground that it was not a “citizen” of the state of Colorado. On Feb. 7, 2024, The Sentinel opposed the city’s petition asking the Colorado Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the newspaper’s win at the Colorado Court of Appeals.
2023-03-02: Opening brief of Sentinel Colorado
2023-04-06: Answer brief
2023-12-07: Court of Appeals opinion
2024-01-24: Petition for writ of certiorari