I believe transparency in government is key to restoring our nation’s faith in its elected leaders.
James Madison said “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
A farce, and tragedy, is upon us in Colorado.
One of the most shocking things I’ve experienced moving from CEO to elected public official is how incredibly hard it is at times to get access to information.
As regents, we are expected to “serve the public trust and to exercise our powers and duties in the interest of the public, the University, and the Board.”
How on earth can we do that if we can’t get access to relevant information to make good decisions? And no offense to our talented staff, but why do administrators get to decide what information citizen-elected board members get access to?
As a CEO, I make darn sure any big decision I make relies on data. It’s what informs you, guides you, it’s what you learn to trust as it’s objective, unemotional.
But then you get elected to oversee a $4 billion state institution, and you’re met with delays, pushback, or excuses, when you ask for information that helps you do your job?
We’re told to stay out of the weeds, don’t micromanage, leave it to the experts. Sorry, but if I’ve learned anything over the years, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. I care deeply about the university and take every vote as a regent very seriously. To do so I need transparency, access to good information.
It’s a battle I shouldn’t have to spend my time on. But that is exactly what I’ve been doing, working on a simple change in regent policy for the last nine months to assure regents have transparency to do their job well. It’s been delayed and pushed off agendas repeatedly. Ironically enough, I can’t get any transparency on why that’s happening to my resolution to beef up transparency!
I’m not the only one who senses something’s not right. The people of Colorado have their ears perked up right now as we see more and more examples of our government doing its business in the shadows.
The same week the fiasco with my transparency resolution happened at CU, Colorado learned of the “swept under the rug” $2.7 million contract paid to an employee of the judicial department who had threatened a tell-all lawsuit when he was fired.
Also, that same week, restaurants got whiplash as they were told they could open on a sudden flip flop by the governor with no transparency around the science or data as to why things changed. The local oversight agencies were the last to know, no transparency there!
Then there’s the vaccine rollout. The prioritization changes monthly, seemingly based on a mystical formula only the governor knows. There has been no transparency around the constant changes (prisoners first? no wait, teachers? no wait, legislators? oh wait, we forgot about restaurant workers – and the first man!).
How on earth is this rollout connected to science? If only we could do a CORA request and find out, but we’re just past 30 days.
The governor himself created the policy that calls for emails to be deleted, with a few exceptions, within just 30 days in his office. Yep, a month. Before they are wiped forever. The emails of state employees, public records under the Colorado Open Records Act, are gone forever with a stroke on the keyboard.
And if you want to use the CORA to request copies, better have your checkbook ready. It could cost you thousands, at a dollar a page, and many months as there’s no consistent timeline to get what you have every right to obtain if it hasn’t already been wiped from history.
Speaking of history, the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic isn’t making Colorado bureaucrats more diligent about preserving records. There has been an outcry by local journalists asking the governor to make sure we protect records of this historic time, but his 30-day whitewash stays in place.
Like so many things happening with our government these days, it should not be this way. The farce, the tragedy, is upon us, Colorado, and it won’t change until our votes do. Time to elect leaders who do their work in the sunshine, not the shadows.
Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.