GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by several citizens groups over a private meeting with oil shale industry representatives held in Vernal, Utah, last March.
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, the Western Colorado Congress, and Parachute resident Paul Light brought the lawsuit against the Garfield BOCC.
The suit alleged that the commissioners violated Colorado's Open Meetings Law by failing to post public notice of the Vernal gathering. The Open Meetings Law requires public notice anytime a quorum of county commissioners meets to discuss public business.
In the meeting, the commissioners drafted a resolution critical of a Bureau of Land Management proposal to reduce the amount of land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming available for oil shale leasing.
"The settlement is an admission of wrong-doing by the Garfield County commissioners, and it's a victory for open, transparent government," said Leslie Robinson, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. "We hope that this helps to ensure that our commissioners stop meeting in secret with lobbyists to decide public business."
As a condition of the settlement, the BOCC will reimburse the plaintiffs for $7,500 in attorney's fees, and ask the BLM to retract its oil shale resolution. The Garfield BOCC has also pledged to provide posted notice of all future meetings on oil shale policy.
"As I said at the time we rescinded the resolution, I do not believe that continued litigation is in the best interest of the citizens of Garfield County," Commissioner Mike Samson said in a press release issued by the county.