Pinnacol Goes To Court To Prevent Records Release

CALL7 Investigators Requested Travel Records Of Pebble Beach Golf Trip

Pinnacol Assurance, a quasi-governmental agency with a Governor-appointed board, is asking a Denver judge to block release of public documents requested as part of a CALL7 investigation.

Despite providing similar documents to 7NEWS and other news organizations under the Colorado Open Records Act in the past, Pinnacol is claiming information about a recent golf trip to Pebble Beach is “confidential” and “proprietary.”

“Pinnacol seeks a ruling from the Court declaring that the requested documents are subject to an exemption provided (in state law) for confidential commercial and financial information,” wrote Timothy O’Neill, an attorney for Pinnacol. “Pinnacol seeks a ruling from the Court declaring that the requested documents invade protected privacy rights and are therefore not subject to production under CORA.”

Jeff Harris, KMGH-TV news director, said the station will fight to get the records and questioned why Pinnacol is fighting to withhold records that it previously provided under CORA.

“It’s curious as to why (Pinnacol) would try to shield itself and go to court when it readily provided the records in a past year,” Harris said. “I suspect it’s because we’ve been working on a story about the relationship between the governor-appointed board and executive management.”

CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski, the reporter on the story, said he wonders why Pinnacol has changed their stance on CORA.

“It’s disappointing to learn that the top management at Pinnacol has decided to protect records now that they provided just a year ago,” he said. “As a journalist I’d like to understand the difference between last year and this when we’re asking for virtually the same information.”

Pinnacol is the state-started worker’s compensation company that receives such government-like benefits as tax-free status and the generous government retirement program. The board of directors, who oversee Pinnacol’s expenses and hire and approve pay for top executives, are appointed by the governor. However, the filing says Pinnacol is “the equivalent of a private insurance company.”

CALL7 Investigators requested records about a May 12-15 trip to Pebble Beach golf resort that Pinnacol calls an “Agent Incentive Event” but 7NEWS cameras found Pinnacol board members playing golf and enjoying drinks and dinner. CALL7 Investigators requested the documents to determine how much was spent on the trip and the board members.

Harris also urged government officials to side with “transparency” on this issue.

“Where does the state stand on this,” he said. “Ultimately, the state should know about these expensive trips.”

Harris criticized Pinnacol for seeking an exception under CORA, saying there are already too many loopholes in the law.

“This is an ongoing and troubling issue over Colorado open records laws,” he said. “They are not as clear as they should be, leaving room for too many exceptions too often.”

CALL7 Investigators are preparing a story on the ethics of the Pinnacol trip, which is scheduled to air Monday.