School Board settles lawsuit with newspaper | SteamboatToday.com

School Board settles lawsuit with newspaper

District will pay $50K in Pilot & Today attorney's fees

Zach Fridell

— On the heels of a March 26 ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals, the School Board voted Monday to accept a settlement offer from the Pilot & Today. According to the offer, the district will pay the newspaper $50,000 in attorney fees and release the transcripts from an illegal closed-door meeting held by a previous School Board on Jan. 8, 2007.

Board members John DeVincentis, Denise Connelly and Robin Crossan expressed regret that the district would have to pay any fee. The board voted, 4-1, to accept the settlement. DeVincentis voted against the agreement.

“Even though I’m disappointed with where we are at at this point, and I do feel that appealing to the (state) Supreme Court that we would prevail, I do feel that it would be in the best interest of the district to settle,” Connelly said.

The board also owes about $40,000 to its own attorney.

“This is going to cost us $90,000 because the Pilot wants to prove a point,” DeVincentis said.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the previous School Board – comprised of DeVincentis, Connelly, Jeff Troeger, Jerry Kozatch and Pat Gleason – did not adequately specify the reason for meeting in executive session and failed to announce its intention to confer with its attorney during the meeting. Both actions violated the provisions of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. Gleason was the only board member to vote against going into executive session during the January 2007 meeting.

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“We appreciate that this was a hard decision for the board and that the financial consequences of the prior board’s decisions are unfortunate, but the newspaper is pleased that the district can now put this matter behind it and move forward,” Pilot & Today Publisher Suzanne Schlicht said.