GREELEY — The Greeley City Council will consider whether to make changes to how the city handles police records requests from the media after Complete Colorado filed a complaint with the city over the police report concerning former House District 50 Representative Rochelle Galindo.
Galindo, who was facing a recall for her seat but resigned in May amid accusations of sexual assault, was investigated by police after two women who worked on Galindo’s campaign, both under 21, went to police claiming Galindo had given them alcohol and then had sex with them during her campaign.
Galindo was eventually charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was not charged with sexual assault as the victim chose not to pursue charges.
When the heavily redacted final police report was released, many media outlets in the state questioned Complete Colorado reporter Sherrie Peif about her role in the investigation, with some initially falsely reporting Peif was the person who filed the complaint. All reports were corrected almost immediately after getting clarification from Greeley Police Chief Mark Jones that Peif played no role in the accusations or as a witness.
Peif never spoke to police, nor was she ever contacted by police. Peif’s only role was as a reporter trying to get answers to a tip she received about the alleged incident. However, the redactions caused confusion and made it appear differently.
When Peif attempted to get a copy of the report herself, she was told the report was $256 because it took so much time to redact.
On behalf of Complete Colorado, Peif filed a complaint with the Greeley City Council over the cost based on several grounds, including that Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act allows for fees to be waived for any reason, that the cost of the report exceeded charges allowed by law as the “actual cost” was billed to multiple parties, and that the report included not only Peif’s name but her physical address and personal cell phone number, despite the fact she was not a party to the case.
“I’m a reporter,” Peif said. “I was doing my job in trying to find answers to a tip I received. If the police included the name of a reporter in a police report every time he or she was the initial point of contact on a tip, reporters would be a party to cases all the time.
“The fact Greeley Police included my name in the report amazes me to begin with, but why they wouldn’t redact it as well, is even more amazing. However, to then charge me for a report that inferred I was a party to the case goes over the top.”
Jeffrey Roberts, Executive Director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, said the first issue is what exactly “actual cost” is.
“It’s very difficult for the requestor when they get an estimate or a bill from a law enforcement agency to know what truly is their actual cost to produce the record,” Roberts said, adding he always advises to ask agencies how they arrived at their reasonable fee not to exceed actual cost. Whose doing the redaction? What are they paying? How many hours did it take? What was involved? “If they are working for all of us, they should give you that break down.”
Additionally, Roberts said agencies should be more proactive in not collecting more than the actual cost amount by charging multiple outlets at the same price.
“If they get 10 or 12 requests and they charge $256 for each one, it certainly raises the question of whether they are recouping their actual cost,” Roberts said. “In a situation like this, they should have known this was going to be in demand. They should have expected this. This was a high profile case that just about every media news organization in the metro area is going to be interested in.”
Complete Colorado has asked the council to issue the report to Peif without charge as well as refund all media outlets in Colorado who paid for the report based on the statute that allows for a waiver.
“Galindo was an elected official,” Peif said. “If any report was ever a matter of public interest, it was that one. No one should have been charged.”
Greeley City Council meets at 5 p.m. today for a work session on the matter.