After reviewing the e-mails I requested from the city about the budget process — the ones that took an illegal 16 days to respond to — I fail to see what all the fuss was about. I can't figure why there would have been any reason for the city to take an unauthorized amount of time to send me 180 pages of largely redacted materials.
Let's put this in perspective. Last year, I requested a great deal of materials relating to the city's firing of finance head Terri Velasquez. That open records request was also late, by about the same amount of time.
But I cut the city some slack. After all, that records request generated thousands of pages of information. Thousands.
Not only do I not understand why this particular request took so long, I'm also disappointed with its contents. The e-mails I requested were about the city budget process, but the ones that weren't blocked out didn't reveal anything I didn't already know.
Let's see: City Council was ticked off about the mayor's attempt to take control over the budget process. No kidding. We wrote about that here back in January.
We also see evidence of Councilor Lisa Czelatdko's frustration with trying to squeeze information out of the city administration. No news there; Czelatdko has been very vocal about her problems. E-mails show that Czelatdko requested: the new administration's expenses for office redecoration, a security system, annual mileage, trips, and salaries for newly created positions; how much money has been spent on special projects and the Spirit of the Springs initiatives; and how money is moved within the budget.
In response to these requests, Mayor Steve Bach sent an e-mail to Budget Director Lisa Bigelow saying, "“... please obtain approval from Steve Cox or me before responding to apparent request today by a Councilor(s) for detailed Mayor expenditures year to date. Generally, we’ll need five or more Councilors asking for detailed information of any type before responding to avoid getting back to repetitive staff fire drill requests by individual Councilors.”
There's just one problem with that: People, including Czelatdko, have a right to know what's going on in their government.
I talked to Czelatdko about this very subject just the other day. My advice to her: File an open records request. The city is obligated to answer her questions, just as it's obligated to answer mine, or yours.