The Colorado open meetings law, which governs every elected body in Colorado, is written in clear, direct, and forceful language.
Its purpose is simple: to prevent elected officials from conducting closed meetings, unless limited to a very narrow range of subjects.
It is lawful for a council to meet behind close doors to discuss lawsuits, certain personnel matters, and certain real estate matters. That’s it – otherwise, any council meetings must be announced properly and open to the public.
But, as elected officials know, there are ways around the law’s strictures. A meeting may be comply with the requirements of the act, but yet be a de facto closed session.
This afternoon, council met with officials of the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. There was no published agenda. The public was notified of the meeting, as the law requires, by a notice posted in the City Clerk’s office at 30 South Nevada. It could also be found on the city website (springsgov.com). In both notices, the venue was described as “The Broadmoor Hotel.”
But here’s where it gets interesting. The meeting wasn’t held in one of the many conference rooms in the hotel. Instead, it was a private lunch, held in the Robert Trent Jones room of The Broadmoor Golf Club.
The club, as the name suggests, is not open to members of the public. It’s reserved for the exclusive use of hotel guests and club members.
According to an individual who was in attendance, no members of the public or representatives of the media were there. The six council members who showed up may have talked about the USOC, or the NBA finals, or, for all I know, about the perfidy of the media. We’ll never know – after all, council was just doing its duty, meeting with prominent community members who are committed to economic development.
Nothing wrong with that, is there?
No. But the choice of venue, and the de facto exclusion of the public and the press, is at best inappropriate – and at worst arrogant and tone-deaf.
Come November, you can bet that council will be pushing some ballot issue designed to restore the city to financial health. Or, freely translated, they’ll want new taxes/new “fees”/new “revenue enhancements.”
You’d think that they’d be going out of their way to convince the skeptical, tax-averse voters of council’s probity, of council’s devotion to the public weal, and of council’s trustworthiness. Instead, they’re oinking down free eats at a private club with the power people, and the uncharitable might assume, figuring out ingenious ways to extract a little cash from the hapless citizenry.
It may be legal – but, to quote President Nixon, “We could raise a million dollars – but it would be wrong.”