Zubeck v. El Paso County Retirement Plan was a case before the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1998 concerning the applicability of open records laws to private coorporations acting on behalf of the government.
This case established that institutions created by public agencies, which use or administer public funds, are in fact public agencies subject to the Colorado Open Records Act and the Colorado Sunshine Law.
- Zubeck, a reporter for Freedom Newpapers, requested documents from the El Paso County Retirement Plan including investment records and meeting minutes. Zubeck claimed that Plan was subject to the Colorado Open Records Act and the Colorado Sunshine Law and should thus fulfill his request.
- Plan rejected the request, claiming that Plan was a private entity and not subject to public records requests.
- The trial court ruled in favor of Zubeck and ordered most of the documents disclosed.
- Plan appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of Zubeck, declaring that PLan was in fact a state agency and thus subject to open records and open meetings laws. They ordered plan to release the requested documents, with exempted material removed. However, the trial court did exempt a number of documents including contracts and leases with private companies for services performed or properties owned by Plan. They also allowed Plan to redact from its minutes any portions of meetings which could have been held in executive session. They finally awarded partial attorney fees to Zubeck.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. However, the court overturned a number of the exemptions established by the trial court.
The Court determined that Plan was in fact a state agency in that it operated as one because it was created by a state agency (the County's Board of Commissioners), used public funds, facilities and benefits, administered taxes, and is part of the county budget. The court also took issue with the trial courts exemptions. The court first determined that the release of the contractual documents would not hamper Plan's ability to gather information in the future, and would not create problems for the business in question. Thus, based on the test established by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, the information in question was not exempt. The court also took issue with the redactions from the minutes, claiming that Plan could not redact the minutes as they had not followed proper procedure to call an executive closed session. Based on these facts, the Court of Appeals ordered all of the documentation released, affirming for the most part the order of the trial court. The Court of Appeals also decided to award Zubeck with full attorney fees.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ruling of the Court