Jeffco school board to get sunshine laws training – in secret

From the Canyon Courier (Evergreen):  Jeffco’s five new school board members will take about two hours at their next meeting to hear legal advice on “the Colorado Open Meetings Law, the Colorado Open Records Act, conflicts of interest and standards of conduct for local public officials.”

The sunshine-law training will be held behind closed doors in an executive session.

Attorneys associated with the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition said that general advice or teaching would not fall under the Open Meetings Law exemption for executive sessions, according to CFOIC executive director Jeff Roberts. The law allows elected bodies to go behind closed doors to seek specific legal advice — not general training, Roberts said.

“However, if specific legal questions arose during the teaching session, the school board could vote to go into executive session for those specific questions,” Roberts said.

School board President Ron Mitchell said the meeting will be behind closed doors at the advice of an attorney for the district, who advised that while some information will be general in nature, the discussion could move into areas covered by attorney-client privilege.

“I believe that our board needs to get specific answers to questions,” Mitchell said. “All we’re trying to do is to make sure that we conduct Jeffco school board business in the best way that we can. We want to get comfortable with complex laws and how each one of us must conduct ourselves in this arena.”

Mitchell said he wanted answers to questions such as what the parameters are for him to communicate with other board members outside of meetings, and what the impacts are on his personal e-mail now that he is a public official.

“I think that questions like those I just framed quickly do lead to personal disclosure on my part and rather specific answers on our attorney’s part that I should have and that should be protected,” Mitchell said.

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