Lawmakers revise plan to open university foundation records
DENVER – State lawmakers gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a proposal that would force a University of Colorado foundation facing questions about money spent on athletic programs to open its books.The measure (House Bill 1041) was sought by Gov. Bill Owens following reports that a report audit presented to a statewide grand jury investigating football recruiting concluded that the CU Foundation had failed to produce subpoenaed documents.There were also questions about numerous unexplained transactions involving the university, the foundation and two football camps run by coach Gary Barnett.Rep. Matt Knoedler, R-Lakewood, said the bill is not intended to punish the foundation. He said the goal is to tell people how their money was spent.George Sissel, chairman of the CU Foundation, said the foundation wanted assurances that information would not be disclosed that could hurt the foundation or contributors. He said foundations are forced to compete for money and disclosing too much information could allow other foundations to profit.”We are not a state agency. We do have private employees,” Sissel told the House Education Committee, which passed the measure after adding exemptions for certain agreements and documents on gifts or potential donations. It now goes to the full House for debate.The foundation, with assets of more than $760 million, has contended it is not covered by state open records laws. It launched a review of its records after the university said a separate, smaller fund-raising group had violated NCAA rules.The state also is auditing transactions between the university and the foundation.Sissel said the foundation spent more than $165,000 gathering and making public documents, including 3,500 pages of e-mails, spreadsheets and wire transfers relating to its interactions with CU’s athletic department between July 1, 1994, and June 30, 2004.
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