Council may have violated intent of Open Meetings Law

From The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction):  Grand Junction city councilors may have violated the intent of the Colorado Open Meetings Law when they voted without a word of discussion on a motion to give resigning City Manager Rich Englehart a hefty severance package, even though they weren’t required to do so by his employment contract.

According to the law, public bodies cannot make decisions in executive sessions, which is presumably where the discussion over Englehart’s resignation took place. The board apparently discussed the issue behind closed doors in an unusual Saturday morning session, but councilors on Wednesday night unanimously approved the motion to pay Englehart $127,680.16 — an amount equal to nine months’ severance pay.

Executive sessions are closed-door meetings intended for councilors to receive legal advice, discuss property transactions, discuss personnel matters and to be advised or talk about some other limited topics.

However, board members are not allowed to reach any informal decision on a matter in an executive session.

Englehart resigned after citing internal and external “conflicts” that he said had arisen in the last couple of weeks and asked to receive nine months’ pay.

But Englehart’s contract did not include offering him a severance package unless he was forced out. Councilors amended his contract to give him the payout. Those details were included in a news release issued after the meeting ended.

Councilors were silent when they had the chance to discuss any reasoning for their decision, and they subsequently voted on a motion that had been prepared beforehand.

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