Herald Stout: Explanation needed
October 14, 2007
The Colorado Sunshine Law says, “It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.”
Since they were seated on Nov. 8, 2005, the current Steamboat Springs City Council has held at least 51 secret meetings (executive sessions). In total, the council has spent more than 51 hours discussing public business in secret. The most egregious example of this being a secret meeting that was held at the Steamboat Grand Owner’s Lounge on April 21, 2006, that convened at 8 a.m. and went until 6:45 p.m. The entire 10 hours, 45 minutes was all held in secret session at a private location.
While prior City Councils have also held executive sessions for things such as legal advice from the city attorney, the frequency of secret meetings held by this current council is unprecedented. For example, the City Council that left office in November 2005 held a total of 28 executive sessions over two years. The current incumbent City Council has almost doubled this number, and its term is not up until Nov. 13.
The bottom line is that the City Council is routinely doing business behind closed doors. The result is that the public is denied the opportunity to participate or even to know the subject of the meeting other than vague generalities such as property negotiations, attorney-client communications or instructions to negotiators.
We don’t know what the City Council is talking about in its secret meetings, but we suspect it may involve controversial or sensitive issues such as recent decisions to terminate without notice – after almost no public discussion – the longstanding contract for building department services with Routt County, to reorganize city departments and personnel and to purchase real estate without any public input.
In this election season, the voters deserve an explanation.
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