DENVER (CBS4)– Heavily redacted cell phone and text records from the Denver City Attorneys Office Denver International Airport leak investigation were released this week although the pages are so completely blacked out, virtually no information can be discerned.
The two pages of personal cell phone records from Sprint were provided to CBS4 on Wednesday as a response to a Colorado Open Records Act Request. But every line and every column was blacked out save for one line, which indicated a single incoming call.
The City Attorneys Office said the phone records were “redacted to remove employees’ personal cell phone numbers to protect their privacy interests and all information related to calls or text messages that were personal in nature.”
On Oct. 24, CBS4 reported the Denver City Attorney was investigating about a dozen of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s appointees and confidantes attempting to learn who may have notified the media Aug. 12 that the city was terminating the contract of Great Hall Partners for redevelopment of the Denver International Airport terminal. DIA administrators officially announced the termination the following day, Aug. 13.
Last month, seeking to find out who within the administration told a reporter about the contract termination prior to the official announcement, the City Attorney began asking appointees of Mayor Hancock to sign a waiver allowing the Denver City Attorney to access their personal cell phone records for Aug. 12.
CBS4 then requested a copy of the phone records obtained as a result of the waivers being signed.
The blacked out records were provided in response to that request. Ryan Luby, a spokesperson for the Denver City attorney, told CBS4 the two pages of phone records released represent the records of two employees for the date of Aug. 12.
“These are the only records obtained via the waiver to date. We gave you everything we have, and can, to date,” wrote Luby.
It is unclear why the records from only two employees were released when sources said about a dozen employees were asked to allow the city access to their phone records.
City Attorney Kristin Bronson previously said the investigation into the employees’ personal cell phone records was appropriate.
“Our job is to follow up on the apparent release of non- public information that presents a legal risk to the city or its employees. Appointees should assist us in narrowing the scope of our inquiry.”
But the inquiry has garnered mixed reviews. Jeff Roberts with Colorado’s Freedom of Information Coalition said, “It’s not always clear whether a public employee is protected by the First Amendment when they speak to a reporter,” said Roberts, “but leaking is sometimes the only way the public can learn about important matters of public concern — like what’s happening with a troubled government contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. What the city is doing threatens the public’s right to know because Denver employees will now be intimidated and less likely to speak up when they believe the public is being left in the dark. It’ll be much harder for journalists to do their job — which is to inform the taxpaying public — if mayoral appointees and other city employees stop talking.”
Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn termed the city phone probe “intrusive” and “an overreach”, but said “The issue here is that someone in possession of information about an imminent material action by the city that would affect the values of the bonds issued by Great Hall Partners leaked it the night before it was going to be disclosed to the bond market, potentially triggering insider trading charges.”
Flynn went on to say the leaker “was disclosing information privately that federal law says must be disclosed to the market in a prescribed public fashion to avoid financial advantages to insiders.”
Flynn said he encourages whistleblowing on wrongdoing but does not encourage securities law violations and insider dealing, “…nor do I endorse searching through personal phone records of staff.”
LINK: Phone Records Redacted