Colorado Springs City Council action in executive session raises legal questions

The Gazette (Colorado Springs): In an apparent violation of the state’s open meeting laws, the Colorado Springs City Council directed the city attorney to pursue professional sanctions against a Monument clean-air advocate during an executive session, one councilman says.

That decision was made at the recommendation of Mayor John Suthers and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, who were present at the time, said Councilman Bill Murray.

Fellow Councilman Tom Strand confirmed part of Murray’s account, saying the council gave Massey direction to move forward in the closed meeting at the recommendation of her and her staff, but he could not recall Suthers’ involvement.

But Strand argues against the notion that the council acted improperly by voting in a closed meeting.

“(Giving direction) is not a vote because it’s normally done with head nods,” Strand said. “She just looks and says do I have consensus here; enough head nods up and down that this direction is the guidance we want to provide.”

The clean-air advocate, Monument attorney Leslie Weise, said in 2016 that sulfur dioxide emissions from the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant exceeded federal standards. In March 2017, the council directed Massey to contact regulatory agencies in California and New York, seeking to have Weise disbarred, according to court filings from an attorney hired by the city. That acknowledgement is part of a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Nina Wang to dismiss the defamation lawsuit Weise filed against current and past council members, and others, in November.

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