The Craig Daily Press is seeking legal counsel after being denied access to a meeting in which U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, pictured, discussed sage grouse conservation with Gov. John Hickenlooper and various representatives from the region and the rest of Colorado.

Photo by Erin Fenner

The Craig Daily Press is seeking legal counsel after being denied access to a meeting in which U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, pictured, discussed sage grouse conservation with Gov. John Hickenlooper and various representatives from the region and the rest of Colorado.

Craig Daily Press denied access to meeting with Interior Secretary Jewell and Gov. Hickenlooper

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Sally Jewell, United States Secretary of the Interior

— The Craig Daily Press recently looked into a possible violation of Colorado Sunshine Law following a meeting about sage grouse conservation.

The meeting, which took place at American Legion Post 62 following Tuesday’s tour of Moffat County land by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, was closed off to Daily Press government reporter Erin Fenner.

Fenner said she was “under the impression” the meeting was open to the public and was therefore open to the press. A man present whom Fenner believed to be representing Sec. Jewell told Fenner the meeting was closed by a request from Jewell.

Fenner said Moffat County commissioners, all of whom were in attendance Tuesday, had recommended she attend the sage grouse meeting earlier that day. Additionally, upon Fenner’s return to the CDP newsroom, Commissioner John Kinkaid called her during the meeting to ask her to return.

However, when she arrived at the American Legion, she was again asked to leave by the same unidentified man.

Kinkaid confirmed he had contacted Fenner during the meeting in order to speak with those involved.

He said the commissioners were not responsible for setting up the meeting — which also included representatives from the state, Craig City Council, Routt and Rio Blanco counties, the Bureau of Land Management and community members, among others — but he was unclear why the meeting was closed.

“We weren’t talking about anything sensitive, it was just general give-and-take, comments and questions,” he said.

A representative from Hickenlooper’s office sent an email to the Daily Press saying Jewell had asked that the meeting be closed to press to “help foster an open and frank discussion.”

The Colorado Sunshine Law for open meetings states that meetings of a local public body with a quorum or three or more members in which public business is discussed are open.

Both Fenner and CDP Editor Noelle Leavitt Riley cited the Sunshine Law to those at the meeting. Leavitt Riley also went to the American Legion after Fenner was turned away a second time, finding the doors locked and the meeting over by the time she was allowed to enter.

Leavitt Riley also attempted to bring up the Sunshine Law with Jewell in the parking lot, saying the secretary did not acknowledge whether or not she had violated the law.

“It sets a bad precedent for the federal government to come into communities and say a meeting is closed when it’s a meeting of public interest,” she said.

The Daily Press recently spoke with legal counsel representing the Colorado Press Association about the issue.

Attorney Steve Zansberg said government officials at the federal level are not subject to state laws about open meetings. Additionally, the governor, as a single government official, is not considered a public body and therefore not subject to the Sunshine Law.

Even so, the decision to open the meeting to the public and not the press defeated the intent, Zansberg said.

“The press is the same as the public,” he said.

Kinkaid said he felt the insistence for keeping the meeting closed was “odd” and “served no useful purpose.”

“It would be beneficial to get more information out and to let reporters carry the whole story,” he said. “If anything, you’d want to bend over backward and be transparent and make the public feel like their voices are being heard and that there’s an openness there.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Comments

Fred Duckels 8 months ago

This charade is a photo op for environmental types. No questions please! The sage grouse is nothing more than a political pawn used to thwart resource extraction and any other agenda driven figments of the lefts imagination.. The Eagle found how valuable it was when it started tangling with windmills creating an awkward situation. The result it went from an endangered species to one with a thirty year open season on its head. I couldn't go thru a dog and pony charade like this, POLITICS!!!

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Scott Wedel 8 months ago

The violation is by the Moffat County commissioners. The Secretary of the Interior is under no obligation to hold open meetings.

I believe that each of the Moffat County commissioners have to turn over copies of any notes, meeting materials or recordings of the meeting.

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john bailey 8 months ago

nothing to see here , move along , move along , we know whats best , now move along..... horse apples, er, ah , sheep xit ....

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Scott Wedel 8 months ago

The Moffat County commissioners should have recognized that they could not attend the meeting if it was closed.

It seems that Commissioner Kinkaid knew that there was an issue, but instead of following the open meetings law and leaving, he stayed at the meeting.

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mark hartless 8 months ago

"The most open and transparent administration in the history of..." yeah, right mr. obama...

SUCKERS

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John St Pierre 8 months ago

this is the same Criag that is wanting to secceed from Colorado.... lets see... private property.. private meeting.... ummmm

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Fred Duckels 8 months ago

The Sierra Club, Community Alliance etc are cleverly nestled in the background tweaking their haloes. They are pulling the strings to threaten 'Endangered Species' status and watch the peasants scurry to comply. Chances are that the grouse will not reach the ES status but in the meantime the war will have been won without firing a shot. If the local representatives were doing their job this meeting would have been basically a trip to the woodshed.

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Fred Duckels 8 months ago

Any entity that stands up to the bullying will find a lawsuit in the offing, this will encompass great expense and risk. Again the war has been won without a shot fired.

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Neil O'Keeffe 8 months ago

Selective Amnesia and Hypocrisy rule the day. Where was all the self righteous indignation for the unwarranted abuse of power under the previous regime? What is so difficult to understand? "Attorney Steve Zansberg said government officials at the federal level are not subject to state laws about open meetings. Additionally, the governor, as a single government official, is not considered a public body and therefore not subject to the Sunshine Law." As long as our politics continue to be a tit for tat board game nothing of any significance will ever get accomplished and that is a sad outcome for the American people. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

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Scott Wedel 8 months ago

"Attorney Steve Zansberg said government officials at the federal level are not subject to state laws about open meetings. ..."

But the question not asked is whether the Moffat County commissioners are subject to the open meeting law. The answer for them is yes.

The Moffat County commissioners failed the public by going along with closing the meeting to the press. If they had followed the law and said they had to leave if the meeting is going to be closed then it puts pressure to reverse the decision to close the meeting.

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Bob Smith 8 months ago

wow, fred, you don't like that little critter, huh? kind of a nuisance animal - a pesky varmint - and those lefty commies make regulations to protect it?? god-damn roosevelt. really, its all his fault! man, if we could only go back to the early 1900's life would be grand, huh fred! well anyway, like I always say, the only good sage grouse is a dead sage grouse! I bet you could send a few of those varmints to grousie-heaven with one of your dozers!! what a sight it would be - 5 or 10 of those little guys getting plowed into a pile and then run 'em over with the tracks on your doze!! and hey - I know that you don't operate the machinery personally any more, but man you may have to jump into the cab for something like this. yeeehaaw!!

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Fred Duckels 8 months ago

Bob Go back and read my first post, this is not about grouse, eagles or cockroaches, it is any animal indigenous to 11 states that can be used as a political tool. The "enviros" will use any tactic needed to further their agenda. The Eagle got the axe when it interfered with windmills and you and I could be next.

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john bailey 8 months ago

so , ah , what ever happened to that pesky Boreal Toad ?

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mark hartless 8 months ago

John St Pierre,

Two weeks and one day ago you wrote:

"so how was that $9K fee paid???? in cash or check?? should be public information?????"

Now you want to imply that Craig and the ENTIRITY of the public should not be privy to pertinent information with far more public ramifications than pot sales...???... Because a few people there contemplated secession???

Do us a favor and NEVER vote...

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john bailey 8 months ago

toad stool stew....HA or perhaps those are not real wings at Carls......jk Collin...~;0)

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rhys jones 8 months ago

Cats are a delicacy in many parts of Asia. All these new restaurants. "Lost Cat: Reward Offered" Maybe the problem is closer than we think.

Next: Eagle Mash? Or will they call it chicken?

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Thomss Steele 7 months, 4 weeks ago

People act surprised... What do you expect of the Governor? You get what you elect.

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