Someone else wants Ireland’s e-mail
The members of the Committee to Recall Mick Ireland aren’t the only ones after the county commissioner’s e-mail – longtime Ireland critic Larry Winnerman is after his own set of copies.
Winnerman made a formal request under Colorado’s open-records law last Thursday for Ireland’s e-mail dating back to January 1999. Once he’s got it, he plans to publish them unedited on the Internet.
“I think based on what we saw in that original e-mail, there is a great interest in seeing who else is being trashed behind their back,” Winnerman said.
His wife, Lori Winnerman, appeared in Ireland’s now infamous e-mail that identified 13 individuals as “liars and greedheads.” The message was sent by Ireland Jan. 7 to his fellow commissioners, identifying people he felt had misled the county in one way or another on land-use issues.
It came to public view three weeks ago after the county released scores of e-mails from all five county commissioners as part of an open-records request by attorney Paul Taddune. He said was trying to prove the commissioners violated the state open-meetings law by communicating via e-mail.
Upon receiving the e-mails, Taddune handed the “liars and greedheads” message over to Millard Zimet, an attorney and member of the Committee to Recall Mick Ireland.
The recall committee has since requested all of Ireland’s e-mail dating back through 1999, and announced its plans to post all of Ireland’s electronic communications on the Internet.
According to Zimet, committee members have had second thoughts about their plans in light of the nearly $3,000 cost of making the e-mail available. Last week he told the Times that if the committee didn’t pursue the request, he was confident someone else would.
That someone else appears to be Winnerman. But there remains some confusion about the relationship between Winnerman’s and the recall committee’s requests for the e-mail.
Winnerman said he did it so the committee wouldn’t have to shell out the money to purchase paper copies of Ireland’s electronic mail.
But recall committee spokeswoman Mary Ellen Schembri said in an interview yesterday that the committee’s request is still pending.
She did add, however, that if Winnerman wanted to donate the e-mail to the committee, it would drop its request and use the money it saves for other parts of the campaign.
When asked if he was on the recall committee, Winnerman wouldn’t say, though he made his opinion of the recall drive clear. “I don’t know if I’m on the committee, but I would be happy to come by and get you to sign a petition,” he said.
Like Zimet has in recent weeks, Winnerman is questioning the county’s faithfulness to the open-records law. Both have asked the county to provide the information on a computer disk, which would make downloading it onto the Internet considerably easier. But the county has refused.
County attorney John Ely said his office considered providing the information on disk, but decided against it to make sure privileged information is not accidentally released. He said the county must first compile the e-mails from Ireland’s personal and county computers, and then sort out ones that are exempt from release under the open-records law.
The law permits government agencies at the state and local level to withhold e-mail that is part of the deliberative process, drafts of new legislation, research, correspondence not connected to official duties, and messages from constituents that clearly imply an expectation of confidentiality.
“Basically, what they’re doing is making it as difficult as possible to do this. I don’t have much choice but to take the e-mail in whatever form they give it to me, but I plan to keep talking to the county to see if I can get them in electronic format,” Winnerman said.
Neither the recall committee nor Winnerman have received the documents in any form, although the county did agree to sort through them and turn them over once it has been paid.
State law gives the county three business days to comply with most open-records requests, and seven days in extraordinary cases.
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