An Elbert County judge denied a bid by county officials for a restraining order against a man whose interest in public records began out of boredom.
County court judge Palmer Boyette denied a request April 27 from the Elbert County board of commissioners to permanently restrain Donald Pippin from entering the county building. The request came four months after Pippin began submitting open records requests to the county in an effort that became increasingly more aggressive, according to witness testimony.
Pippin submitted his first request to the county in early January, following a conversation with a group of retirees, he told Boyette from the witness stand. Pippin, who is retired military, wanted to verify a public comment reportedly made by Commissioner Kurt Schlagel, District 2, that the county had no overtime expenses.
“I didn’t care at first,” Pippin said. “It was kind of because I was retired. I just hooked up with a bunch of old (people)… and started looking for numbers. I’m not a threat.”
During the ensuing four months, Pippin submitted a number of requests to the county, including payroll records for overtime and vacation pay. His findings made their way to a nine-page summary, claiming policy, personnel and budget violations by the board of county commissioners. The findings are now under investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for any potential violation of state law by Elbert County, said Steve Johnson, CBI assistant director.
When records custodian Cheri Radeker denied a request for a more than a year’s worth of copies of paychecks for Sheriff Shayne Heap, Pippin responded with a series of phone calls and visits to the county offices that Radeker deemed threatening.
“My interpretation with his agitated behavior was I felt fearful and threatened,” Radeker said. “I worry about my employees when I’m not there to protect them; it’s my job to protect them.”
Radeker set into motion the restraining order against Pippin on April 4, when she saw him taking pictures of the county’s security cameras. She reported the incident to Schlagel, who got a temporary restraining order against Pippin to keep him from entering the county building.
Boyette lifted the temporary order and denied the county’s request for a permanent restraining order.