Colorado passes law to battle secrecy, scandal in public university foundation

COLORADO — Allegations of sexual assault and drug and alcohol abuse during football recruitment plagued the University of Colorado last year, leading lawmakers and state officials to eye the University of Colorado Foundation, which held key documents that would indicate how some funding for recruitment was spent.

But as lawsuits mounted and political pressure rose, the foundation still refused to hand over the documents.

Soon after the scandal broke, in late 2004, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens vocally supported a bill into the state legislature that would open all Colorado public university foundations, the fundraising arms of universities. In February 2005, the bill sailed through the state legislature with a 56-9 vote in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate. Owens signed the bill into law on May 24.

When the Boulder Daily Camera was denied numerous open records requests by the University of Colorado Foundation in September 2004, it threatened the foundation with legal action. The foundation then responded by suing the Camera, claiming the foundation is not subject to open-records laws.

The University of Colorado Foundation received requests from the Camera for documents regarding the University of Colorado football scandal, allegedly involving illegal football recruitment practices. In October, the E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the Camera, asked a judge to dismiss the foundation’s case.

In February, the report of the grand jury investigating the football scandal was leaked to the Denver Post and Colorado 9News. The University of Colorado Foundation failed to comply with public records subpoenas issued by a grand jury, the report revealed. Theses records contained information about how some money for football recruiting was allocated.

The university denied this information. Bob Miller, attorney for the university, said in a statement that the university believes it fully complied with all subpoenas for documents based on assurances from the attorney general’s office “including an explicit assurance to counsel for the university approximately one week before the grand jury concluded its work.”

Miller said that when the documents were subpoenaed, the attorney general’s office said there were no concerns about the documents the university provided, and that the grand jury’s report incorrectly included that the failure to provide the documents was intentional.

Colorado Deputy Attorney General Jason Dunn declined to comment, but said, “We investigated the leaks. They didn’t come from this office, but the governor and attorney general are talking now about the next steps to take.”

Read previous coverage:

Colorado gov. proposes legislation to force open CU Foundation books The Report, Winter 2004-05

Boulder Daily Camera, Colorado, Colorado 9News, Denver Post, reports, Spring 2005, University of Colorado