Freedom of Information case dismissed
SUMMIT COUNTY – A controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) request focused on the Summit County sheriff’s department was dismissed on Nov. 29 by a district court judge.The initial request was filed by Littleton resident and second homeowner Dr. James McCord on April 21 to find out why former jail captain Mike Phibbs was fired.McCord stated in his original request that the information could have a bearing on the Aug. 10 sheriff’s primary between Sheriff John Minor and Phibbs. McCord described Phibbs as a friend whom he met while the two were students at Cheyene Mountain High School in Colorado Springs.Gov. Bill Owens had appointed Sheriff Joe Morales as the state director of public safety, leaving a vacancy in the department. Minor was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) as sheriff on Dec. 26, 2003.Shortly after taking office in January, Minor fired jail captain and 2004 sheriff’s race opponent Phibbs for allegedly causing contention within the department over Minor’s appointment.Minor promoted his other prospective opponent Derek Woodman as undersheriff. Woodman dropped out of the sheriff’s race the same day Phibbs was fired.McCord had requested e-mail correspondence for Sheriff Minor and Undersheriff Woodman spanning several months. He also asked for a list of internet sites visited by the two Sheriff’s Office employees. The county hired an outside attorney to help process the information for hourly rates of up to $150. McCord’s bill for his request came to $11,468.45, and he received only 3,500 of the 10,000 files from the county. The remainder were either duplicates or deemed sensitive and not subject to disclosure.The 7-pound box of information released by the county was dubbed “benign” and “a joke” by McCord who said the documents would not serve the purpose of the request.McCord then asked for the “privilege log” from his original request, a document that would have listed the 1,500 documents not released and the reason behind the non-disclosure.According to the district court, the county filed an estimate for the “privilege log” requested by the plaintiff, but McCord never filed a response. The cost estimate for the privilege log was an additional $3,000.County Attorney Jeff Huntley said McCord wanted the log prior to the election, but the log would not be completed until the Wednesday after the election. The log was never completed since its estimated cost wasn’t paid by McCord.No activity had occurred in the case since Sept. 7, thus District Court Judge Richard Hart of Eagle County dismissed the case.When contacted Monday evening, McCord said he was unaware of the case status. He did not want to comment until speaking with his lawyer.The case was dismissed without prejudice, which means the case can be reopened if the plaintiff wants to refile.In an effort to streamline electronic records in case a similar request should arise, the commissioners will be discussing e-mail retention in county offices at the Jan. 4 BOCC work session.Proposed changes to the e-mail retention system will indefinitely save e-mails that are kept in a folder. Department managers will be responsible for deciding which documents to save. Junk e-mails will be deleted from the system immediately, while remaining e-mails will be stored for 30 days.Jennifer Huffman can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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