Our View: An open government is best government

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s messy firing of former executive director George Krawzoff serves as an important reminder that public bodies must understand and follow the provisions of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today has been a steadfast advocate of strict adherence to the laws enacted to ensure the public’s business is done in plain view. The newspaper’s efforts always have been to represent the public’s interest in government matters at the local level. At times, our responsibility to be a watchdog of government entities has necessitated court action. More often, however, it has led to learning opportunities for the volunteer citizens who serve on school boards, city councils, planning commissions and entities such as the Education Fund Board and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s board of directors.

Such is the case with Krawzoff’s termination. Although the Housing Authority’s board properly convened an executive session to discuss its executive director during a July 12 meeting, board members appear to have erred in that they took action behind closed doors. In this case, that action apparently was the decision to seek Krawzoff’s resignation. The law specifically forbids public bodies from making any decisions in executive session.

When Krawzoff refused to resign, he was immediately fired by Rich Lowe, the Housing Authority’s board president. Knowing the board inappropriately acted, its members subsequently held a meeting Aug. 9 in which they voted in open session to terminate Krawzoff’s employment. The board also paid him for the one-month period from his improper termination to the formal firing in early August.

We appreciate that the Housing Authority board recognized its mistake and sought to rectify it. And while we can’t speak to the merits of Krawzoff’s termination, ultimately he will have to decide whether to pursue legal action over his dismissal. That’s not our role.

What is our role is advocating for open and transparent government. The lesson for the Housing Authority and the reminder for all other local public bodies is this: Own up to the responsibility of understanding Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. Doing so will ensure that the public’s business is done in public, and it will help prevent costly and embarrassing lawsuits.

Comments

Fred Duckels 2 years, 3 months ago

Tack this latest lawsuit expense onto the tab of this unneeded feel good empire. Programs like this are easy to initiate but the bill continues into eternity.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

Editorial completely ignored the fact stated by YVHA that YVHA had offered George a severance package if he'd agree to resign. Thus, a financially crippled organization was willing to spend money to get a resignation for a situation so bad that they had decided that was his last day of work regardless.

As for the claim that the meeting was properly convened, that is very debatable. The Pilot vs SB School Board case had courts rule for the Pilot with judges splitting on the reason. Some said the executive session notice was too vague. But, just like this situation, some judges said the notice was good enough, but when the executive session discussion went into topics other than what was noticed then the meeting was no longer properly noticed.

In the case of YVHA, there was no notice given that the executive was going to discuss terminating George in executive session. There was no notice given that they were going to consider offering George a severance package if he resigned. Even if those topics had been noticed then they were topics not allowed to be discussed or decided in executive session and so must be part of the public record.

Pretty sad that the Pilot is willing to concede the right for a public record of public meetings that they themselves had helped establish in their case with the school board.

At the very least, the editorial should have demanded that just as YVHA cured the improper firing of George by holding a second meeting and properly going through the steps to fire him, that YVHA also cure the public record of his firing by, at a bare minimum, release the portion of the audio and minutes of the executive session that went beyond strictly considering his job performance.

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