Goodtimes:An Open Reply to Mr. Lucius O’Dell’s Letter | Up Bear Creek
by Art Goodtimes
Aug 29, 2007 | 315 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CORA DISPUTE … I’m a great believer in psychologist/sociologist Erik Erikson’s differentiation between a situation’s strengths and weaknesses rather than focusing on the subjective appraisal of something as “good” or “bad.” So it is with Mr. Lucius O’Dell’s “Open Letter to the People of Colorado.” …

The first positive aspect of O’Dell’s Colorado Open Records Act request is that it forced the county to review its email policies. CORA was meant to open up government to the light of legitimate citizen inquiry. Official documents, in the public record, needed to be made accessible to citizens through a defined process. CORA does that. But unfortunately it was written before the current proliferation of email correspondence in the workplace. CORA provides a process for accessing public documents – papers that can be copied and released, whole or redacted (with certain restrictions on the public’s right to know, specifically attorney-client privilege and staff work product privilege). Although it does not allow private correspondence, outside a commissioner’s official duties, to be made public, even when created on a county computer. However, because the assembling of data to be released as a disk was not contemplated in CORA’s statutory wording, county governments have had to guess how to comply with the spirit of the law in a reasonable way. In the current instance, the three counties affected responded in three different ways to the same state law – reflecting the differing legal opinions of three different attorneys. San Miguel County took the middle tack, not handing the email info over carte blanche as Gunnison did, nor refusing to start assembling the info until the cost was paid up front as Garfield did. San Miguel County did the work, assembled the emails, told O’Dell he was free to come look at the documents here in San Miguel County for no charge – or he could pay the cost of assembling the info and we'd send him a handy little disk … And, in a sense, that may be the second positive outcome of O’Dell’s CORA request. It’s highlighted the need to update the state laws to deal with email, or someone will file a lawsuit and get the matter adjudicated in the courts, because, clearly, there are many differing interpretations on how to meet the letter of the law in the cyber age … Finally, the whole incident has motivated me to change the way I archive emails, and to separate out what is public from what is private. And I’m hoping that with the new website the county has under construction (expected roll-out is next month), we may be able to post all the commissioners’ public emails on line, free of charge, so that not only O’Dell but any citizen can see what their elected officials in this county are up to … At the same time, the not-so-positive things about the O’Dell letter are hard to ignore … First, the unfocussed “all the emails for the last five and half years” aspect of this CORA request seems excessive. Targeted inquiries on particular subjects by any private citizen seems reasonable. Partisan attempts to harass “liberals” or “conservatives” does not seem exactly compatible with the spirit of what the legislators intended in passing the open records act into law … Second, I guess I haven’t been aware of what O’Dell calls a “bureaucratic war” being waged by “liberal operatives” to discredit the opposition. I probably live too far from the center of the state to know the kind of shenanigans they play on the Front Range. But O’Dell’s CORA request was the first one our county has ever received … Third, I really don’t like the idea that a citizen from the Front Range with an axe to grind (O’Dell’s supposed theory that liberal politicians and environmental activists are conspiring to “block economic development on the Western Slope”) can make taxpayers in Western Slope counties foot the bill for an email assembly process that costs several thousand dollars, at the least. That’s the amount we grant annually to many of our local nonprofits to help them in their community missions. Instead, to see that money going to a partisan “test-of-the-system” seems absolutely inappropriate … Finally, there are the many misrepresentations in O’Dell’s Letter … Paragraph Three: One can test the “principles of democracy” at any point in one’s life. Why O’Dell claims his leaving of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado was the only time to make a CORA request is curious. Especially as he was still listed as the RSCC’s “Executive Director” on their website when we received his request – that is, until the issue started making regional headlines … Paragraph Four: O’Dell’s theory that liberal elected officials and “extremist environmental groups” are conspiring “to block economic development on the Western Slope” is particularly curious in our county, where things are booming. San Miguel County is a regional engine of employment, the oil and gas industry continues to grow, and the economy in Telluride/Mountain Village is better than ever. So much for blocking economic development … Paragraph Four: Random testing usually means not targeting one segment of a group in order to prove a theory. Sound science needs multiple samples, a control group, etc. for real testing. If O’Dell wanted a random sample, why were four Dems and a Green targeted? Why not a mix of Dems, Repubs, Greens, Libertarians and Independents – to see if there were any differences in their response? ... Paragraph Six: The true partisan nature of O’Dell’s attack-masquerading-as-a-CORA-request becomes apparent when he goes after Tresí Houpt and me for using “the power of their offices to block my legally protected right to view their official email correspondence.” Neither Tresí nor I act unilaterally when it comes to county business. The truth is, the full board of commissioners in our county, in Garfield County, and in Gunnison County decided on the course of action each chose in responding to O’Dell. And in Garfield County it was two Republicans as well as one Dem that chose to require O’Dell to pay before he could view the requested email material. All three commissioners in San Miguel County agreed on a course of action – allowing O’Dell free access on site to the material (in spite of his representations otherwise) as well as offering him a CD with the emails in exchange for the cost of assembling that CD. Houpt and myself have not blocked O’Dell’s rights. He has chosen to play a little game of subterfuge to try to embarrass two sitting commissioners, at public expense, to prove his partisan theories … Paragraph Seven: Whenever you hear someone use the word “lackeys”, you can pretty much be assured that the speaker is slipping over into political cant. I can’t get anyone to file my papers at the office, let alone house a stable of lackeys at my command (I only wish!) … Paragraph Eight: Another rhetorical flourish ups the ante – the offending activists are not only “radical environmentalists” but actually “terrorist groups”. I presume we’re talking about the Western Colorado Congress, of which I have long been a member and have served as a Senator on its board, or Colorado Wild, Sheep Mountain Alliance, or maybe the Colorado Environmental Coalition – all of whom I belong to or support. When our sons and daughters are, at this moment, being killed in a declared war with real terrorists, demeaning the word to apply to one’s political opponents is not only irresponsible, but reprehensible … Paragraph Ten: Here the young O’Dell (in his early twenties) makes a legal judgment, in spite of his lack of legal experience or professional knowledge of this field, calling the Garfield and San Miguel County interpretations of CORA “illegal.” Neither Garfield or San Miguel County attorneys believe either county’s actions go outside the law. In this instance, where we have three different attorneys making three different interpretations, I’m quite happy that our county has taken a middle ground – providing free on-site review and charging for time spent assembling any info to be sent to O’Dell over on the Front Range … Paragraph Eleven: Here’s the ultimate cop-out. If O’Dell believes Garfield or San Miguel County acted illegally, he has the right of redress to a court. He could have his lawyer, Mr. Barry Arrington, file a case pro bono and settle this issue. Instead, he pleads poverty. And in the same breath accuses both these counties of “outrageous attempts at extortion.” Here we have flagrant accusations completely absent of substance. Neither county is involved in extortion, but only in recouping taxpayer expenses to feed O’Dell’s unscientific testing of his partisan theories … Paragraph Twelve: Methinks the young man doth protest too much. By claiming that this CORA request wasn’t “a publicity stunt” and suggesting his failure to respond to press calls was because he was trying to avoid “press attention” is a spin and is spurious. A publicity stunt that backfired is exactly what O’Dell has on his hands at this point … Paragraph Thirteen: O’Dell asks “voters across the state” to remember the dastardly liberals Houpt and Goodtimes when election time comes. But I have shocking news for our poor civics-challenged Mr. O’Dell. Voters across the state don’t vote for Houpt or Goodtimes. We are county commissioners, not state representatives. Tresí has been elected twice in her county and I’m serving my third four-year term in this county. We’ve been re-elected because we do a good job of representing our constituents, not blocking development. So O’Dell’s letter wasn’t really pertinent to voters of the state … Unless, of course, this was a pre-emptive Republican attack on two up and coming Western Slope progressive elected officials who might be drafted for state office at some point in the future. In which case, O’Dell’s CORA fishing expedition makes all the partisan sense in the world.

© 2007 Art Goodtimes

THE TALKING GOURD

Grow & Prosper

That’s the life arc.

Interrupted only

by death & taxes.

A nervous marriage,

nervous job,

nervous breakdown!

But aren’t growths

supposed to be removed

at the earliest instance

& “to prosper”

means “to get ahead

of others”?

Still we dream

this dream &

give this blessing.

Better grow than not.

After all, silk lace prosperity

sure beats threadbare,

I guess, unless

it matters if the prosperous

tend toward the twisted.

McRedeye sez:

The real charm’s surviving

true as dirt.

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