The Colorado Court of Appeals heard arguments via web conference in a case that focuses on what city councils and other government boards must tell the public prior to convening a closed-door meeting.
Open Meetings Laws
In a case similar to the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit against the University of Colorado regents, an El Paso County District Court judge will soon decide whether Colorado’s open government laws require a school board to name more than one finalist when choosing a new superintendent.
The Denver-based nonprofit that provides video access to the Colorado General Assembly is offering its virtual-meeting software package to local governments for free during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lakewood City Attorney Tim Cox called it “almost a chicken and egg situation.” For city council members to legally conduct electronic meetings – like the one they were conducting via Zoom when Cox spoke to them Monday evening – they had to pass an emergency ordinance to allow electronic meetings.
In an extraordinary decision which can only be described as a public flailing, the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado – the governing board for the entire CU system – overwhelmingly lost a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) lawsuit in which the Daily Camera newspaper sought to force the university to disclose the six candidates who actually were finalists in last year’s search for a new system-wide president.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition joined 131 other transparency-minded organizations in urging state, local and tribal governments across the United States “to recommit to, and not retrench from, their duty to include the public in the policy-making process, including policies relating to COVID-19 as well as the routine ongoing functions of governance.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces everybody to consider limiting their exposure to other people, local elected officials are starting to think about how they can do the public’s business virtually without violating the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
Rejecting the University of Colorado regents’ interpretation of the open records law as “linguistic gymnastics,” a Denver District Court judge ordered CU to produce the names and applications of six candidates interviewed for the president’s job that went to Mark Kennedy last year.
The ruling in the Boulder Daily Camera’s lawsuit over the University of Colorado’s presidential search will hinge on whether words such as “list” and “group” in Colorado’s sunshine laws mean that the CU Board of Regents should have announced more than one finalist – or whether such words can be interpreted as either singular or plural, a judge indicated.
Did the state’s sunshine laws require the University of Colorado regents to publicly name more than one finalist for the president’s job and disclose their job applications?