Steamboat Springs A judge ruled Wednesday that the Steamboat Springs School Board did not violate the Colorado Open Meetings Law during a Jan. 8 executive session meeting.
After reviewing a transcript of the closed-door discussion, visiting Senior Judge Thomas Ossola denied the Steamboat Pilot & Today's request to review the tapes, saying the board's meeting "was not improper" and that "no violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Law or the Colorado Open Records Law occurred."
Ossola did not make a decision about whether the School Board entered the discussion for a valid topic, as is required by state law. Attorneys for the newspaper argued it did not.
Ossola also ordered the newspaper to pay for the School Board's attorney fees.
"I'm glad the way it turned out," said School Board member John DeVincentis, who attended Friday's hearing in Routt County District Court. "I think people second-guessed us, and I'm glad (the judge) was able to see we're just trying to be honest and open with the public."
Pilot & Today Editor Scott Stanford said the newspaper is considering how or if it wants to proceed with the case.
"Obviously we're disappointed in the judge's ruling," Stanford said. "Foremost, we're concerned he didn't address the issue of how the topic of the secret session was announced.
"We're in the process of reviewing the ruling and deciding what our options are. We still believe this is an important case that is critical to how local government bodies conduct their business."
The lawsuit, which was filed in January, centers around anonymous surveys filled out by district teachers and support staff about their administrators. Superintendent Donna Howell said she told administrators the survey results would remain confidential, but School Board members later demanded access to the surveys and ordered Howell to turn them in. Board members contend they have legal right to all school files, and they say they were the ones who ordered the anonymous surveys.
Howell was given a directive in December to release the survey results to the board, which she denied. The board then met in executive session Jan. 8 to discuss accessing the survey results.
The board's stated reason for entering into a secret discussion was for a personnel matter related to "access to information."