State boards and commissions need sunshine law training, Colorado lawmakers say

Update: HB 18-1198 passed the House 63-0 on Monday, Feb. 26.

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Colorado lawmakers are taking steps to ensure that people who serve on state government boards and commissions understand their obligations under the sunshine laws and adhere to other “best practices.”

House Bill 18-1198 would require each statutorily created board and commission to implement written policies and get annual training on specific topics. Included on that list are an understanding of the Colorado Open Records Act and the Colorado Open Meetings Law.

Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, and Lori Saine, R-Firestone, said the bipartisan bill stems from their work on the Legislative Audit Committee.

“We hear audit findings that many times are very disturbing,” Kraft-Tharp told the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. “… You see certain trends, you see certain patterns, over and over again in audits. What can we do to make systemic change so that all of our departments, all of our commissions, all of our programs, are running with the highest quality?”

Kraft-Tharp said audits from the past few years found that some boards and commissions had conflicts of interest or members who didn’t understand their statutory obligations. “As a legislative body, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are identifying what the best practices are and that we are giving the directive that boards need to be trained and informed on a regular basis,” she said.

State Auditor Dianne Ray highlighted an audit which showed that the Limited Gaming Impact Advisory Committee, which is in the Department of Local Affairs, did not follow certain requirements of the open meetings law. According to the audit, the committee failed to take minutes of meetings and may not have properly noticed meetings.

“Colorado’s open meetings law is in place to ensure that the public has the opportunity to become more informed on issues of public importance by observing and participating in public meetings and that policymakers’ decisions are transparent and documented,” the audit noted.

The bill passed the committee 13-0 on Tuesday. Among its other required training topics: identifying and managing conflicts of interest; understanding and operating within the limits of statutory directives; defining a mission or role in the oversight of projects; and understanding program goals.

The majority of state boards and commissions already receive training, Kraft-Tharp said, “so it is only appropriate for us to clarify the things that need to be in that training.”

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

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