Editorial: How Pagosa Springs ran afoul of Colorado’s Sunshine Law

The Pagosa Springs Sun:  Last September, the Pagosa Springs Town Council allowed parties with whom they were negotiating to join the council in an executive session.

The session was essentially a closed-door meeting about a proposed vehicle bridge across the San Juan River at 5th Street, behind the courthouse. The public was not allowed to participate in the meeting.

The official purpose of the executive session was described as “Revision to Springs Partners 10-Year Vested Right Agreement Pursuant to C.R.S. Section 24-6-402(4)(e) Determining Positions Relative to Matters that may be Subject to Negotiations, Developing Strategy for Negotiations, and Instructing Negotiators.”

Things went very wrong when the decision was made to allow parties with whom the town was negotiating to enter the executive session and negotiate, which is not allowed by Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

Earlier this month, following an in-camera review by Judge Greg Lyman, the town was ordered to release the portion of the audio recording that included negotiations with the Springs Partners.

Last Thursday, rather than appealing Lyman’s decision, council decided to release the recording.  And, when we listened to the recording, we were in agreement with the judge; there was clearly negotiating going on.

As Lyman pointed out in court documents, “The Springs Partners described their dilemma of not being able to attract investors for their proposed development if there was uncertainty about whether such a bridge would ultimately be constructed.”

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