School board’s emails spur concern over possible open meetings law violation

From the Citizen Telegram (Rifle):  The falling out between the Garfield Re-2 school board and its former superintendent, Susan Birdsey, spurred several firsts for the veteran board.

Specifically, it was the first time in the past eight years that the board has been questioned on potentially violating the state’s open meetings law, said Board President Chris Pearson.

“This is the first time in eight years that this has ever come up,” she said.

Her statement is in response to concern over an email conversation involving all five board members 28 days prior to publicly deciding to enter into a separation agreement with Birdsey. The emails — obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request — discuss differing opinions on the decision part ways with Birdsey, and hopes of avoiding a split vote of no confidence in public.

That conversation constitutes a discussion of public business among three or more board members and is therefore subject to Colorado’s Open Meeting Law, said Steven Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

The law defines a meeting as “any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, in person, by telephone, electronically or by other means of communication.”

As a public meeting, which the law defines as “all meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken,” full and timely public notice must be given prior to the meeting, Zansberg said.

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