Regardless of the intent, were the actions of the Park County commissioners legal? Is there a difference between what journalists can do versus ordinary citizens? With portable video and audio recorders in the pockets of most people, how will situations like this be mediated in the future? The short answer: It’s complicated but becoming clearer.
Open Meetings Laws
Two words come to mind when looking back at 2018’s government transparency highlights and lowlights in Colorado. Judicial secrecy.
Basalt town council members violated Colorado’s open meetings law in 2016 when they used email to discuss a retail marijuana resolution and other matters, a judge ruled.
The Otis Telegraph calls itself “The friendly voice of Washington County” because it likes to promote the community, says co-publisher Jerry Patterson. “But every once in a while you have to step up and do things that papers are supposed to do. You have to ask the tough questions.”
Geoff Wilson, former attorney and lobbyist for the Colorado Municipal League, was awarded the Sue O’Brien Award for Public Service for his continuing support of the principles of transparency and open government.
The city says the Denver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Exploratory Committee, formed by Mayor Michael Hancock, is not bound by the Colorado Open Meetings Law and, therefore, it can meet however it sees fit. But there is a solid legal argument that the state’s open meetings law indeed does apply to the Winter Olympics exploratory committee. And if that’s the case, the public should be notified of all meetings and the committee should bar the public from attending only under the limited circumstances allowed by the law.
Colorado lawmakers are taking steps to ensure that people who serve on state government boards and commissions understand their obligations under the sunshine laws and adhere to other “best practices.”
In a year that featured plenty of freedom-of-information lowlights, Colorado lawmakers in 2017 provided a welcome ray of sunshine – a helpful new tool in the never-ending quest for government transparency. Senate Bill 17-040, which modernized the Colorado Open Records Act, was one of many topics featured on CFOIC’s blog and news feed in 2017.
When a charter school board in Pagosa Springs agreed last month to release the audio recording of a closed-door meeting, it was the second time in less than two years that the local newspaper successfully challenged an apparent violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Law (COML) – without going to court.
Happy birthday to us – and a shout-out to some of Colorado’s original freedom-of-information fighters. Thirty years ago, on Aug. 3, 1987, 24 representatives of various news and public-interest organizations gathered at the Denver Press Club to create a state Freedom of Information Council, the entity now known as the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.