Opinion: Water district violated Sunshine Law when it changed name of storage project

The Pagosa Springs Sun: It seems like to some people, changing the name of the Dry Gulch water storage project was so important, they decided to violate the Colorado Open Meetings Law (COML) to get it done.

A story on page one of this week’s paper outlines actions of the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors, which voted via email by secret ballot to change the name of the Dry Gulch water storage project.

On June 21, The SUN received an email from SJWCD board chair Rod Proffitt, which stated, “San Juan Water Conservancy District announces the name of the reservoir project in the development stage east of Pagosa Springs on the former Running Iron Ranch property has been changed from the ‘Dry Gulch Project’ to the ‘San Juan River Headwaters Project’. … The board of directors officially decided to change the name at its regular board of directors meeting on June 12th, and then chose the name from a list that had circulated for the last several months.”

The content of that email was contradictory to what actually happened in the June 12 meeting, which The SUN staff attended.

Contrary to what Proffitt had announced in his email, no vote was held to select a specific name at that meeting. The SUN reported that at that meeting the board discussed possible name changes. The board then came up with the idea of each board member rating the possible choices, and then deciding on a name during the next board meeting.

SUN staff made a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for emails between the board members that resulted in a 126-page PDF file revealing that the board voted by secret ballot in direct violation of the COML, which states, “Neither a state nor a local public body may adopt any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, or regulation or take formal action by secret ballot …”

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