Fund Board to confer about Open Meetings Law tonight
June 30, 2010
If you go
What: Education Fund Board special meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. today
Where: Upstairs board room of the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Seventh Street
Steamboat Springs — The Education Fund Board will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss its status as a public body subject to Colorado Open Meetings Law.
The Fund Board's legal counsel has told its members that the group that allocates revenues from the city's half-cent sales tax for education does not have to comply with Open Meetings Law. The Pilot & Today's legal counsel sent a letter to the Fund Board earlier this month stating the newspaper's position that the Fund Board is a public body and thereby is obligated to follow Open Meetings Law, also referred to as the Sunshine Law.
The issue arose after the Fund Board held a 45-minute executive session at its June 2 meeting. The executive session was to discuss "contract negotiations," and after its conclusion, the Fund Board voted unanimously — and without any public discussion — to approve a motion to seek bids for a new accountant.
After the meeting, Fund Board President Mark Andersen said the purpose of the executive session was to discuss the performance of the Fund Board's accountant, Paul Strong, and his failure to file annual tax returns for the Fund Board.
The June 9 letter sent by Pilot & Today legal counsel Christopher P. Beall, of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, states that Open Meetings Law defines a local public body as encompassing "any public or private entity to which a political subdivision, or an official thereof, has delegated a governmental decision-making function."
"In this regard, there can be no serious dispute that the city of Steamboat Springs has delegated to the Education Fund the quintessential 'governmental' decision-making function of determining how to allocate sales tax revenues collected by the city," Beall wrote.
The Fund Board operates via a Memorandum of Understanding with the city of Steamboat Springs.
Beall's letter asked the Fund Board to reconsider its position and if not, provide legal basis to justify its position.
Andersen said tonight's meeting is the first time the Fund Board will meet since it received the letter.
"We're just going to discuss our options about how to respond to the letter," Andersen said.
Andersen declined to comment about the Fund Board's position concerning the Open Meetings Law.
On June 15, Andersen updated the City Council about the Fund Board, and the Open Meetings Law issue was raised. City Council President Cari Hermacinski expressed concern about the Fund Board's position that it isn't a public body subject to Open Meetings Law.
On Tuesday, Hermacinski said she thinks the Fund Board should comply with the Open Meetings Law and suggested amending the Memorandum of Understanding with the city to include that position.
"It's my hope that the Fund Board will voluntarily agree that they will modify their (Memorandum of Understanding) with the city to comply with the (Open Meetings Law)," she said.
Also at tonight's meeting, Fund Board members will discuss the process for selecting a new accountant. Andersen said the position has been advertised and several people have expressed interest.
Andersen said he would suggest that candidates be interviewed in public by a volunteer committee that could make a recommendation to the Fund Board in August.