Mark Kennedy speaks to reporters at a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

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As the Poudre School District in northern Colorado narrowed its search for its next superintendent, the school board announced three finalists for its top job. The Jefferson County School District, in contrast, named just one.

Colorado law requires that public entities — such as school districts and public colleges and universities — release the names of finalists for top executive positions 14 days before a formal job offer is made.

But the law has been unclear, with conflicting court rulings on whether a governing body can name just one finalist or whether everyone who made it to the final round of consideration should be treated as a finalist, with their names and applications subject to release under public records law. At stake are two competing values: giving privacy to job candidates and ensuring openness to the public.

House Bill 1051, which is making its way through the Colorado General Assembly, would settle the question on the side of privacy, repealing a portion of public records law that says if three or fewer applicants meet the minimum qualifications, all of them should be considered finalists. House Bill 1051 easily passed the state House last month with bipartisan support.

The Senate State Affairs Committee takes up the bill on Tuesday.

The proposal would allow public entities like school districts, public colleges and universities, and cities and fire districts, to name just one finalist for their top executive position, such as superintendent, president, or city manager. The names and applications of other candidates, even ones who were seriously considered for the job, would no longer be subject to disclosure under public records law.