Casa Bonita Watch Highlights Range of CORA Nuances

casa bonita tower

Many fans eagerly await the re-opening announcement date for when they’ll finally get to experience the Trey Parker and Matt Stone version of Casa Bonita. The Beautiful Opco, LLC (TBO), the ownership group Stone and Parker created after their $3.1 million purchase of the COVID-shuttered restaurant was officially announced in September 2021, poured millions into the restaurant’s renovation since then. The continued high interest in the project is substantiated by ongoing media coverage and the subsequent CORA kerfuffle surrounding the release of detailed drawings and plans details published by 9news in August. As private investigators and the media in Colorado know, CORA (short for Colorado Open Records Act), is an important state open government law that allows access to most public records.

Reporter Jeremy Jojola of 9News provided details on the renovations after obtaining drawings and plans through an open records request to the city of Lakewood. Using those documents, he determined that Parker and Stone will spend at least four times its public purchase price on the renovations. Discussing the updates on a City Cast Denver episode, Jojola said Coloradoans are highly interested the story because they have deep-rooted connections to their previous experiences at Casa Bonita.

The day after 9News aired the story, TBO filed a civil complaint against the city of Lakewood and Jefferson County to stop some specific details of the plans from being released, citing safety and security reasons.

A Jefferson County judge granted a temporary 21-day restraining order after the suit was filed, which blocked News4 and Fox31, the other two media outlets that had requested the records, from accessing them, according to The Westword. TBO then dropped the lawsuit a few weeks later without citing any reason for doing so, presumably since they were able to redact some of the most concerning details.

On City Cast, Jojola said new pink exterior paint on the restaurant piqued his curiosity and he turned to public records to help satisfy his interest in what was happening in the year since Parker and Stone bought the restaurant.

“I’ve learned over the years that the public record touches almost every single thing that happens,” Jojola said on the podcast.

Under CORA, any person may request access to public records held by public and quasi-public bodies. CORA ensures transparency to all branches of the state and local governments in Colorado.  This includes municipalities, counties, metropolitan districts, boards of trustees of state institutions of higher education and other public entities performing a governmental function. It went into effect on the first of July in 1962, two years after Congress adopted the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Several amendments to the law were passed since then, including restrictions on what can be publicly accessed. The general rule is that to withhold public records, the public body must demonstrate that the record falls under one or more exemptions such as a disclosure that would be contrary to the public interest. It also protects others than the person-in-interest from reviewing certain details. Examples include the identity of children involved in a court case, medical records and more. An overview of the law and complete list of exemptions can be found at this link.  The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is another useful site that has details on CORA and Colorado open meetings laws.  

A separate law added in 1977, the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA), governs the disclosure of records kept by criminal law enforcement agencies such as police departments, district attorneys, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Colorado Department of Corrections.

In 2021, Governor Polis signed the Colorado Privacy Act into law, which adds other specific restrictions on what may be published on the internet.

If you’re looking for information from public records, you can research it yourself, but hiring a private investigator could save you a lot of time. Private investigators often rely on public records as part of an overall investigation. They know the different agencies, what to ask for and how to ask for it, resulting in a quick response. More importantly, they should have a clear understanding as to what is most likely available, relevant and valuable as it pertains to your particular case. Attorneys, individuals, and small and large businesses often hire private investigators to obtain information from public records.

These records hold a wide range of information and can help paint a more accurate and thorough picture of the stakeholders in a case. They can include information about births and deaths, to work history, addresses, financial information and more, including:

  • Property records/addresses
  • Driving records
  • Bankruptcies and judgments
  • Court/Penal records
  • Financial and/or asset records
  • Marriage records
  • Birth and/or adoption records
  • Military records
  • Employment records
  • Name changes and aliases
  • Family and friend connections

Besides the Casa Bonita example, CORA played a  high-profile role in several other recent stories about access to public information, including recently reported occurrences of its use by election deniers. Other recent stories of note include the almost-release of the names of the 1000+ Douglas County schoolteachers who called out sick in February after superintendent Corey Wise was fired. Those names were not released after the Colorado Open Records Act request their release was withdrawn, perhaps the person who requested them didn’t want their name then becoming publicly available.

Nancy Kristof
Nancy Kristof

Nancy is a writer, editor and communications professional nearly 30 years of experience. Originally from the east coast, she's lived in Colorado since 2004 and owns her own communications consulting business and supports Ross Investigators as an information gatherer, blogger and editor.

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