In Colorado, Where the Homeland Security Money Goes

$1,500 on polo shirts noted, but many expenditures kept secret by state's sgencies

State agencies spent homeland security money on everything from chemical suits to secondhand clothing, but the bulk of expenditures aimed at making Colorado safer - millions of dollars in all - remain out of sight from the public.

That's because administrators in the state Department of Local Affairs redacted information from thousands of pages of spending records, using black pens to obliterate documents that showed exactly how tens of millions of dollars in federal homeland security money has been spent in the past three years.

The documents were made available to the Rocky Mountain News under a new law, passed by the legislature this year and signed by Gov. Bill Owens, that was meant to shed light on the use of homeland security money.

The law was supposed to open to public scrutiny all records of money spent on homeland security except those detailing specific "security arrangements or investigations."

A review of spending by Colorado state agencies - which represent roughly 20 percent of the $130 million in homeland security money given to Colorado in recent years - did give a hint of where some of the money went.

But the News review of roughly 7,500 pages of grant applications and related documents found vast swaths blacked out.

"One of the things we did fear with creating any amount of discretion in the executive branch was an abundance of redactions," said the law's sponsor, State Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver. "It sounds to me like those fears were well-grounded."

In some cases, entire invoices - even the name of the company that sold a product to a state agency - was obscured.

Department of Local Affairs director Mike Beasley defended the heavy redactions, arguing that certain information would lead a criminal to know a state agency's vulnerabilities.

Beasley's agency allocates the federal money. Though he was out of town Tuesday, he said in a phone interview he would be glad to look at any specific document and explain why it was blacked out.

Referring to the Department of Revenue, Beasley said its application "included very specific details about what their vulnerabilities were at specific locations and what their plan to mitigate that was - and that kind of information is going to be redacted."

Asked what he thought should be open, Beasley said: "It depends. It depends on whether that information broadcasts some vulnerability to any kind of criminal element."

Grossman, however, said he buys that "vulnerabilities" argument only to a point.

"I think the argument . . . is by disclosing what you're purchasing, you're disclosing what your vulnerabilities are," he said. "But if you are talking about invoices that have already been paid and purchases that have already been made, it makes that argument completely invalid."

Billions authorized
In response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., Congress authorized billions of dollars in new spending on homeland security. The money is doled out to states, that spend part of it and pass on the rest to local agencies, such as police and fire departments.

The Colorado State Patrol got a $131,866.49 grant to "enhance" the protection and evacuation capabilities of critical state buildings.

It also spent $84,605.74 to install underground fiber optic cables at the governor's mansion - a move designed to allow the state's chief executive to run the government from there in a serious emergency.

The Department of Agriculture spent $67,936 to install fiber optic lines at the site of the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. Plans called for installation of a line between the livestock barn and the Palace of Agriculture, along with three wireless radio towers.

Officials making the request wrote that it was necessary to have the State Fair grounds as "a secondary facility for the department in an emergency. This campus would provide much needed surge capacity not only related to an agricultural event but could support other state, regional and local agencies as well."

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