Leave it to the scrappy Cortez Journal to push the issue about clean restaurants and open records in Montezuma County. And now the county is ready to address a larger problem.
Staff writer Jim Mimiaga provides a master class is expecting the state’s open records law to mean something, even as he fairly reports the staffing problems the Montezuma County Health Department is facing.
Read the story here.
When readers asked their local newspaper why it didn’t run county restaurant inspection scores, the Journal asked the health department for the public information. Bobbi Lock, who runs the health department, asked for money, $518.85 for the latest batch. And the records the newspaper asked for in May won’t be available until the end of September.
The Journal’s lawyer, First Amendment ace Steve Zansberg, said that’s illegal, exceeding what the law allows the government to charge under the Colorado Open Records Act.
The health department even wanted to charge for the couple of hours it took discussing the request and sketching out an estimate. Zansberg said there was basis in the law to support charging for that.
Mimiaga wrote with depth and fairness about the heavy workload the rural department faces with just one inspector, who would compile and provide the restaurant inspection reports. The charges to the newspaper would presumably pay to bring in some help or pay some overtime.
The newspaper asked for a year’s worth of restaurant inspection reports for 143 establishments in Montezuma and Dolores counties.
“She is overwhelmed, and there is not enough time in the day to take care of everything as it is,” Lock said about the inspector in the Journal’s story. “Five dollars per report will help pay for the additional staff time to generate the reports.”
The Journal updated its story over the weekend to say Montezuma County Commissioners will meet Monday to discuss staffing shortages in the Health Department. The health department could ask to raise its inspection fees to hire some help, the Journal reported.