Duggan: Residents get frustrated when elected officials won’t hear them out

Fort Collins Coloradoan: Few things frustrate residents more than not being able to speak to their elected representatives about issues near to their hearts.

School boards members, city council members, county commissioners, statehouse representatives and senators, and members of Congress are expected to be accessible to constituents and be prepared to hear them out. Whether they act on what they hear is another matter.

But there are times — and the number seems to be growing in Fort Collins and Larimer County — when elected representatives refuse to take comments from the public unless the circumstances are just right.

For elected officials, it’s a matter of protecting themselves, their governments and, ultimately, taxpayers, from legal action. But for would-be speakers, the reluctance to listen is a matter of censorship.

(Warning to readers: Latin words ahead.) Such is the weird world of quasi-judicial matters and ex parte communications.

Members of city councils, county boards of commissioners and planning commissions sometimes serve as judges when deciding land-use issues.

That’s where the quasi-judicial label comes in. They must weigh evidence presented by both sides in formal hearings and render decisions based on law, as in the land use code.

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