Bill adds requirements for holding school board executive sessions

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Concerned that some school boards in Colorado are meeting behind closed doors when they shouldn’t be, a state representative has proposed legislation that would give the public more information to gauge whether their elected school officials might be violating the state’s Sunshine Law.

HB 14-1110 would add requirements for keeping minutes of school board executive sessions. It also would mandate the electronic recording of portions of school board executive sessions that currently are not recorded because a board’s attorney believes the discussion involves privileged material.

“We have had several school boards that appear to be misusing executive sessions,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cherylin Peniston, D-Westminster. “This provides more accountability to that process without impinging on the attorney-client privilege.”

Rep. Cherylin Peniston

Rep. Cherylin Peniston

Peniston said she isn’t interested in “picking on specific school boards” by citing certain incidents. In Douglas County, questions have been raised about how much time the school board spends meeting behind closed doors.

Current law requires that minutes of school board executive sessions reflect the topic of discussion. Under HB 14-1110, the minutes also would have to list the amount of time spent discussing each topic.

In addition, the bill would require that school boards electronically record discussions during which attorney-client privilege is claimed and maintain a log of topics addressed during those privileged discussions.

Citizens who suspect the process has being abused “would have more information to know whether have just cause” for asking a judge to review the minutes and recordings, Peniston said. “The judge would make a determination of what could be made public and what needs to be kept under wraps.”

HB 14-1110 is scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, in the House Education Committee. Peniston sponsored a similar bill last year that would have imposed additional executive session requirements on all publicly elected boards, not just school boards.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

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