Editorial: A curtain over government transparency

From the Reporter-Herald (Loveland):  When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited northwestern Colorado earlier this month, it provided her and other officials the opportunity to view a sage grouse recovery program that has been described as being an innovative way to bolster the numbers of the native birds.

In the process, however, it seems she and her staff found an innovative way to break open meetings laws, too.

As part of the visit, she had asked to meet with the members of the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners to get their input on the program. However, she wanted to get frank and honest discussion from the commissioners, so her staff told the press they were not welcome at the event. Twice, the second time coming after a reporter notified her staff of the law. In doing so, she forced the commissioners to break the law.

The Colorado Sunshine Law requires elected bodies to conduct their business — such as hearing about federal programs — in public, with very specific exceptions. Creating an environment for a frank and honest discussion with a federal cabinet-level official certainly is not one of them.

In a letter to the newspaper in Moffat County, the Craig Daily Press, the director of communications for Secretary Jewell apologizes for “a breakdown in communications” regarding “the parameters of the meeting.” There was no breakdown. The parameters set forth by the secretary were for it to be illegally closed.

Unfortunately, it is not the Interior secretary who broke the law, however. It was the county commissioners. They are the ones bound by statute to conduct their business in public, and they failed to do so.

Visit the Reporter-Herald for more.

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