The city needs to pay up and move on
July 11, 2012
The city has lost its case trying to prevent the public from having access to anonymous ballots. The often-vilified but never-daunted Marilyn Marks has prevailed. The city’s last hope – an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court – has been rejected.
It’s over. Pay up.
This case is the city’s fault, pure and simple. Marilyn filed a valid Colorado Open Records Act request. The city denied it, and let’s stipulate it did so in good faith (a stretch, but let’s go with it). When Marilyn had to sue to vindicate her (and our) rights, the city persuaded a local judge to throw out her case.
The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed and unanimously held in Marilyn’s favor, awarding her attorneys’ fees as the statute requires. Not satisfied with the expense to the city at that juncture, the city foolishly threw more of our money at an unsuccessful Supreme Court appeal.
It is reported that Marilyn had to spend $275,000 on this case. It is the city’s fault she had to, and we all benefited from her expenditure and effort. But we have to pay because the statute says so.
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The city at first said it would honor the Supreme Court but then changed its mind and filed a ludicrous petition for rehearing. There is and was no hearing when the Supreme Court rejects an appeal (technically a petition for certiorari).
The city’s petition cites no authority for its highly irregular petition. The city’s action, which was not even considered by City Council, smacks of someone in City Hall refusing to face reality and instructing the city attorney to “do anything” to avoid the inevitable. The city attorney assures me that he filed the petition on his own initiative, but I think he is too good a lawyer to have done it without pressure from someone else.
Worse, relying on yet another ludicrous theory unsupported by the statute, the city claims it owes Marilyn only a small part of her fees. Based only on the history of the city’s failure at every step of this fiasco, does anyone believe the city’s arguments? Based on Marilyn’s tenacity, does anyone believe the city won’t eventually have to pay her every penny it owes her?
People of integrity admit their mistakes, pay their debts and learn from the painful experience. It is only the longest of long shots that Marilyn won’t get her money eventually. It is the city’s fault she had to incur the expense regardless of technicalities. This city should have more character than to be trying to weasel out of its obligation. If the city is allowed to duck its debts, what is the incentive to be more prudent the next time? City Council can approve payment of this obligation any time.
Does City Council have character, or is it a gang of weasels?