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Denver’s top government watchdog is suing City Council over subpoena powers amid spat

Council leadership already pursuing repeal of controversial ordinance rather than court fight
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Posted at 4:37 PM, Mar 04, 2022

DENVER — Denver City Auditor Tim O’Brien this week filed a lawsuit against Denver City Council seeking to remove limits the council placed on his subpoena powers.

O’Brien, serving his second term as city auditor, publicly sparred with council leadership late last year over plans to audit the council’s operations. Bubbling beneath the surface was a separate dispute over a late change to the subpoena powers bill that the council passed in May.

Council leadership has reacted to the suit by saying they plan to repeal the ordinance that gave the auditor’s office subpoena powers in the first place. In a statement released Thursday, those leaders invited O’Brien to “engage with us to address the serious and legitimate concerns the council has in the matter.”

Subpeona powers mean the auditor has the authority to compel city contractors to provide records, documents or testimony necessary to completing audits if they don’t comply willingly. O’Brien on Thursday said his office already has the right to request and review records and documents but having subpoena powers provides a cheaper, speedier method for that than trips to court.

As outlined in the suit filed this week, O’Brien wants an amendment to the subpoena bill struck down. The amendment granted city agencies and contractors that keep “confidential and/or proprietary records” the power to reject providing copies of those records directly to the auditor’s office for off-site review. Instead, those record-holders have the authority to provide access to those records “on-site.”

Read the full story from our partners at The Denver Post.