Sunshine Week Is Setting. Here Are 5 Great Investigative Stories From Around Colorado

Photo: Denver Post | News Matters Editorial Page - AP
The front page of the Perspective section of The Denver Post on Sunday, April 8, 2018. The Post's editorial columns pleading for new ownership resonated nationally.

Sunshine Week is about illumination, but not in the literal sense.

The annual celebration honors acts of investigative journalism, and the so-called sunshine laws that allow reporters to request records and documents from government agencies.

Journalists representing different news organizations from across the state talked to Colorado Matters about how they used the Colorado Open Records Act, or CORA, to bring corruption, crime and government excess to light.

Conrad Swanson, Colorado Springs Gazette

In Colorado Springs, the cliche “behind closed doors” took on extra meaning last year.

Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Swanson discovered the Colorado Springs City Council was using executive sessions, private meetings, to make decisions that, by law, had to be made publicly.

Councilmembers were often using the private meetings to agree on legal settlements that should've been presented in an open meeting. In one case, the city hid a six-figure settlement decision with an environmental group from the public.

Listen to Swanson’s interview here. Read the reporting here.

Chris Vanderveen, 9 News

It’s a common retort to gun control advocates: What’s the point of enacting more laws when the existing ones aren’t enforced?

9 News reporter Chris Vanderveen found that in the case of Colorado’s laws that require the subjects of domestic violence protection orders to surrender firearms, that’s been the truth.

Records revealed that state courts repeatedly ignored thousands of gun relinquishment orders, sometimes leading to the loss of the lives the protection orders were supposed to defend.

Listen to Vanderveen’s interview here. Watch the reporting here.

David Migoya, Denver Post

What if every official trace of a court case vanished — no record of a lawsuit being filed, a criminal arrested, a verdict, even if somebody went to prison.

That’s happened thousands of times in Colorado in just the last five years, Denver Post reporter David Migoya found. The series “Shrouded Justice” looked at 6,000 cases that went unknown to everyone except the law enforcement officers involved, including malpractice lawsuits against lawyers.

As a result of the reporting, the state Supreme Court has ordered changes.

Listen to Migoya’s interview here. Read the reporting here.

Erin McIntyre, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The story was as unbelievable as it was grisly: A funeral home in Montrose was accused of selling body parts, giving the families fake or swapped cremains.

The news broke after an FBI raid, but it took Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reporter Erin McIntyre to keep pulling out more information.

McIntyre found multiple complaints against the Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors that dated back years, well before the raid. The records had been held up by a tangle of active investigations and intersecting agencies.

Listen to McIntyre’s interview here. Read the reporting here.

Nathaniel Minor, CPR News

Denver-area residents have spent billions of dollars in taxes and fares on RTD's light rail network over the last 15 years. But how do they know if they're getting their money's worth?

CPR News reporter Nathaniel Minor relies on open records laws to answer that question. That’s how Minor discovered the rates of trains running traffic signals were way up.

Those numbers were just half the story, and interviews with RTD managers and the agency’s union showed bad working conditions were a driving factor.

Listen to Minor's interview here. Read the reporting here.