Our View: An open government is best government | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: An open government is best government

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.