Jeffco school district negotiating groups raise Proposition 104 questions

From High Timber Times (Conifer):  The recent move by Jeffco Public Schools and the teachers union to take portions of contract negotiations behind closed doors falls into a murky area of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

The district and the Jefferson County Education Association opened negotiations this month, and both sides agreed early on to break into small study groups and examine several priority topics. The two groups announced last week that meetings of the small groups would not be open to the public.

Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, said it’s not clear whether the move violates Proposition 104, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters last November. The initiative stipulated that meetings between school district representatives and a union must be open to the public.

“Because there will not be more than two district representatives at each small group meeting, the Sunshine Act does not require these meetings to be public,” Amy Weber, the school district’s human resources director, said in an e-mail last week.

Roberts said, however, that the law doesn’t specifically address whether meetings with less than three district representatives would need to be public.

“(Proposition 104) is written in the way as it certainly could be interpreted as an open meeting … but it’s ambiguous,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t say anything about how many (staff members need to be present), or anything like that.”

Seventy percent of Colorado voters were in favor of Proposition 104. The ballot language read: ““Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

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