Pinnacol Assurance's "Embarrassing" Documents

August 20 2010, 9:18 AM

Back in June, state auditors concluded that about 75 percent of entertainment and travel expenses incurred by executives at Pinnacol Assurance, including some alcohol purchases, were in violation of Pinnacol's own policies. Of the region's various news agencies, no other has been pursuing new aspects of the story as doggedly as 7News, which found that governor-appointed Pinnacol board members flew to the Pebble Beach luxury golf resort in California to mix business and pleasure, including swanky hotel accommodations and greens fees costing nearly $500 a round. But when the news channel sought specifics, Pinnacol officials pushed back, claiming that revealing requested details, such as compensation for top officials, would hurt it competitively. Now, Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman has ruled that because Pinnacol is a public organization, it cannot withhold information. "It's just that the information is embarrassing," Hoffman says.

Pinnacol, a quasi-governmental entity that provides workers' compensation insurance to about 57 percent of the state's businesses, must now turn over receipts and records from the trip to the beach resort and a list of who was there, reports the Denver Business Journal. Jeff Harris, news director at 7News, tells the Journal he expects to receive the records within the next 30 days. "It was a big victory for open records today," says state Senator Morgan Carroll, who chairs a state legislative committee dealing with Pinnacol and sits on the state Legislative Audit Committee. "It was a big victory in the public interest about openness and transparency. The precedent that could have been set today was much bigger than Pinnacol." Pinnacol president and CEO Ken Ross is expected to review the organization's legal options.