Garfield commissioners commit to more openness in county government
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners, at a special Monday meeting, adopted a new policy committing to as much openness in county government proceedings as possible, and to make private executive sessions a rarity.
County attorney Andrew Gorgey said the policy statement goes beyond the statutorial requirements of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law, also called the “Sunshine” law.
“What this does is it states, as a policy, that you are committed as a board to openness as the governing body of Garfield County,” Gorgey said in presenting a formal resolution for the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to consider.
Commissioners passed the resolution 3-0.
The policy statement came in follow-up to a similar resolution approved by the commissioners last fall establishing a policy for handling public records requests. That policy was intended to simplify, expedite and make uniform the processing of records requests by citizens.
The new executive session policy states, in part: “The BOCC is committed to transparency in government in every respect … (and) a formal policy statement by the BOCC regarding executive sessions further demonstrates its commitment to openness in government and is in the best interests of the citizens of Garfield County.”
Executive sessions are authorized under state law for a variety of reasons such as discussions of personnel matters, lawsuits involving the county, negotiations for pending land acquisitions or contracts, and for obtaining legal advice in specific areas.
While confidentiality is important in those arenas, the new policy states, “as a matter of policy, executive sessions should be rarely used.”
The new policy statement also comes on the heels of Gorgey’s acknowledgment last week that he was wrong in advising that a Jan. 9 discussion between the commissioners and a consultant hired to lead the search for a new county manager be done in executive session.
That meeting should have taken place in open session, he determined. As a result, that discussion was repeated as part of Monday’s special meeting.
In making that determination, Gorgey also discovered that about 24 minutes worth of the Jan. 9 executive session was not recorded, and much of the recording made by the cassette-tape machine was inaudible.
The county intends to replace the older cassette recorder with a new digital recording device and, as a matter of policy, will verify that an executive has been properly recorded before adjourning.
Executive session discussions, though confidential, are still required by state law to be recorded. However, the type of recording device to be used is not spelled out.
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