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State auditor lists issues with how Colorado offices handle civil rights discrimination complaints

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Posted at 12:03 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 14:03:35-04

DENVER — The Colorado state auditor reported multiple issues with how two Colorado offices handle civil rights discrimination complaints.

In a performance review of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Colorado Civil Rights Division, the Office of the State Auditor found that the division is slow to investigate the claims and the commission has been operating in a way that’s not transparent.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division is tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination related to employment, housing or public accommodations. If they find probably cause that discrimination happened, they will mediate settlement terms between the two parties. If they can’t settle, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will review the complaint and decide if an Administrative Law Hearing is needed.

The division and commission then have 270 days to investigate the complaint and determine if that hearing should be set.

The auditor found that the division did not investigate the complaints in a timely manner. The division didn’t complete its work for 367 of the 933 complaints that the auditor reviewed. On average, it took about a year for the division to complete its work on those delayed cases.

In addition, the auditor found via the division’s records that it had asked for time extensions in 58 of the sample of 66 cases the auditor reviewed. Only the complainant and respondent parties can ask for time extensions, not the division itself. The commission then approved the requests, but couldn’t provide evidence that there was a “good cause” to do so.

The review also found that the division did not have complaint information accessible online from November 2016 — when an online complaint management system was implemented — through the end of the audit period, which was in June 2019.

These issues prevent the public from feeling as though these offices operate in a fair and consistent manner, the review stated.

To fix these problems, the auditor recommended multiple resolutions: First, the division should be more timely with its complaint investigations and adjust its expectations for staff on completing milestones associated with the case. They also should not use parties’ statutory time extensions.

Second, the advised the commission to document its discussion of complaints and vote on them in open, public meetings.

You can read the full performance audit here.

In the 2019 fiscal year, 1,929 complaints filed with Colorado Civil Rights Division.