I recently posted that the El Paso County Attorney and the five Commissioners met in an ‘executive session’ to discuss how to approach a proposed extension of the Public Safety Tax (PST). Here’s what the Colorado Springs Independent reported:
“On the morning of Aug. 21, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners met behind closed doors to discuss a ballot measure to extend the sheriff’s sales tax of .62 percent. They emerged from the session more than an hour later with County Attorney Amy Folsom saying, ‘No decisions were made.’”
Did the County Violate Colorado Sunshine Laws?
There’s a problem with having secret meetings…Colorado’s sunshine laws prohibit them in all but very limited situations. It would seem that the County Attorney and the Commissioners may have violated state law since an executive session for a tax extension does not appear to meet one of the exceptions allowed by law.
In accordance with CRS § 24-6-402. Meetings – open to public, there are eight exceptions to open meetings where an executive session may be permissible. The language is too lengthy to list it all in this post; however, I’ve prepared a separate document you can download and read here:
Sources have told me the County may be attempting to claim the executive session met the second exception since they were seeking ‘legal advice on a specific legal question.’ But that does not appear to fly since that exception is about lawsuits brought by the public. It has nothing to do with taxation.
If the County Attorney and the Commissioners violated Colorado law, did they also violate a criminal statute in the process, or is it a civil matter whose redress is via lawsuit? If it’s a criminal violation, then I certainly hope the El Paso County District Attorney moves to investigate and file charges. I won’t hold my breath for that; however, but there is a viable political solution: recall.
Custer County Citizens Recall Two of Three Commissioners for Closed-Door Meetings
As reported by the Pueblo Chieftain, in November 2017, two of three Custer County Commissioners were recalled and their replacements voted in after they were accused of:
“…violating their oath of office to uphold the Colorado Constitution by holding ‘closed door, executive sessions and/or secret meetings wherein county issues were discussed and policy decisions made, which were not accessible to the public.’”
Perhaps it’s time for a grassroots campaign in El Paso County, similar to the one that ousted the Custer County Commissioners, to champion a recall effort targeting our five Commissioners and the County Attorney.
I certainly would be interested in lending my support to such an effort if that’s how we finally achieve open, honest, trustworthy, transparent and accountable local government.