Scott Wedel: YVHA questions

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I submitted a Colorado Open Records Act request for the portions of the July 12 Yampa Valley Housing Authority board meeting discussion and vote to terminate George Krawzoff and the discussion and vote on the proposed severance package for him. It has been denied. The Housing Authority’s own statement acknowledges these decisions were made July 12 in executive session, and their own meeting minutes indicate they did not occur during public session. 

Because the Housing Authority board went into executive session to discuss Krawzoff’s job performance and that was the last action by the board prior to firing Krawzoff, it is clear the board made those decisions during executive session. Colorado Sunshine Laws specifically state that public boards may not make decisions during executive session.

I went to Thursday’s Housing Authority board meeting and spoke during public comment. I was the only member of the public there. I said the board’s July 12 firing of Krawzoff and its Aug. 9 letter creates questions that should be answered. The letter states that a severance package was offered, but the details of that package have not been released. The public does not know how the board members voted on immediately terminating Krawzoff or the severance package. There is no public record of a discussion or vote on why the Housing Authority was willing to offer a severance package to someone they had decided was to be immediately terminated.

And the board’s only response was to thank me for my comments. So the Housing Authority board will not answer questions regarding the severance package. They will not answer questions regarding whether they voted July 12 to terminate Krawzoff, and they will not release the board’s vote. They have accepted that they made policy decisions in executive session and have no plans or desires to correct the public record by now answering questions regarding what they decided and how they voted.

They are inviting a lawsuit to force them to release these votes and discussions. The Housing Authority receives $150,000 each year from Steamboat Springs and Routt County. A similar lawsuit cost the Steamboat Springs School District more than $90,000. I think it is wrong that the Housing Authority is willing to spend its limited resources keeping its decision-making process, votes and decisions secret from the public.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

I just got the minutes to YVHA's August 9th meeting. It does state what they had offered to Mr Krawzoff. It also states that they made the decision during executive session which is specifically not allowed. And yet they still refuse to release that discussion and how they voted.


During the executive session the Board members directed Rich Lowe and John Spezia to speak with Mr. Krawzoff and offer him the opportunity to submit his resignation and receive a two-and-one-half month salary as severance pay, an offer that the Board fully expected Mr. Krawzoff to take.

The minutes also suggest that if Mr Krawzoff wanted to be a real thorn in their sides that he could still sue since the YVHA board merely ratified a previous decision that was not made in a public meeting as required.

The case of Van Alstyne v. Housing Auth., 985 P.2d 97, 101 (Colo. App. 1998); ruled that merely ratifying in a public meeting a previous decision was not legal. In that case, the housing authority had 3 offers to buy a property, they had accepted one in non public meetings (conferences of the board). And then finally held a public meeting which they ignored a more recent offer and just ratified their earlier decision. Court invalidated that decision and basically required that they reconsider the issue without considering their previous discussion or previous decision.

Thus, since the YVHA board on August 9th is convened to ratify the previous decision and does not even discuss any other option then Mr Krawzoff would appear to have a strong case that he still has not been properly terminated

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. But it does go to show how a public board acting on the advice of their lawyer can remain in a situation where they could still be sued. And how legal advice is often to not correct the legal liabilities, but instead to do nothing until the other side starts legal proceedings.

The minutes also suggest the YVHA board is deeply dysfunctional. That the board never considered the possibility that Mr Krawzoff would not accept the severance package. And then board chairman Rich Lowe, with advice from no one, not even a fellow board member standing next to him, made the instantaneous decision to fire Mr Krawzoff.

But then that is the dilemma of the YVHA board. On one hand they are trying to minimize how many decisions and the extent of improper discussion during executive session. On the other hand they are trying to claim they acted with the board's knowledge and approval.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

From the July 12th minutes: The executive session adjourned at 2:11 pm. No minutes or formal actions had been taken during the executive session, and Rich (Mr Lowe) stated that no topics other than personnel matters had been discussed.

From the August 9th minutes: During the executive session (on July 12th) the Board members directed Rich Lowe and John Spezia to speak with Mr. Krawzoff and offer him the opportunity to submit his resignation and receive a two-and-one-half month salary as severance pay, an offer that the Board fully expected Mr. Krawzoff to take.

So there it is in black and white. YVHA board first says they didn't take any actions. Then questions are raised about what happened and then they say that they did take actions.

And so there are two completely different accounts of the July 12th executive session. There are the July 12th approved minutes and the Aug 9th minutes where they try to rephrase what happened on July 12th.

On one hand they took no formal actions, on the other hand they decided to offer Mr Krawzoff a 2 1/2 month severance package if he were to resign.

YVHA board upon leaving executive session on July 12 flat out lied about not taking any actions during executive session.

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Robert Dippold 2 years, 3 months ago

Scott, I hope you don't come into my company to police policy and procedures. I'm quite confident that each of us can go into our government offices or companies and find things that we are not doing quite right. Maybe things are not even quite right at your company. If the worst thing the YVHA has done is go behind closed doors to discuss the job performance of an employee then I think they are doing a pretty good job. Regardless of the policy, it sounds like the humane way to deal with the situation. Rules can't cover everything. How about we make a deal? For every time we criticize someone or some group in the paper the next time we right something positive about someone or some group? I look forward to reading some positive comments from Scott Wedel.

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