Portland trip raises open-meetings questions for Boulder council

From the Daily Camera (Boulder):  Whether the Boulder City Council’s planned three-day trip to Portland, Ore., falls under the auspices of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law depends on how closely it is tied to the council’s policy-making function.

In an opinion released on Hotline, the council’s public email system, City Attorney Tom Carr argued that the City Council can engage in informational meetings, even with a quorum of the council in attendance, without violating Open Meetings Law.

“The Colorado Open Meetings Law does include a very broad definition of what constitutes a meeting,” Carr wrote. “The Supreme Court has, however, construed a meeting to be limited to meetings that involve the policy-making function of the legislative body.”

The case law that Carr relied on is Board of County Commissioners, Costilla County v. Costilla County Conservancy District, a case that involved a meeting of two county commissioners with representatives of state agencies and a private mine owner about a water pollution issue. The county commissioners later issued building permits related to the mine’s mitigation efforts.

The district court found in favor of the commissioners. The Court of Appeals disagreed and said the plain language of the Open Meetings Law defined the gathering as a meeting. However, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with the commissioners and the district court.

“The Court held that because the meeting was merely to gather information and not directly related to policy-making, it was not subject to the Open Meetings Act,” Carr wrote.

But Chris Beall, an attorney with Levine, Sullivan, Koch and Schulz who represents the Colorado Press Association and the Daily Camera, said he doesn’t believe Carr is correctly interpreting the entirety of the ruling.

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