Others should join transparency project
New members of the Grand Junction City Council — and other local elected officials, for that matter — should take a page from Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese’s playbook when it comes to keeping the public informed.
No, we don’t mean they need to rush to create a Twitter account, although that’s fine if they will use it. Rather, they should look for ways to go beyond the letter of the law when it comes to open meetings and open records and push for more transparency, not less.
Pugliese’s transparency project is a work in progress, and only time will tell how committed she is to it.
Readers will recall that The Daily Sentinel objected strongly to the less-than-transparent way she and her colleagues handled the dismissal of former County Administrator Chantal Unfug early this year. Since then, Pugliese has repeatedly declared her desire to be as transparent as possible regarding county business and has taken steps to accomplish that. We appreciate her efforts.
Although we have had recent disagreements with Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, he has generally been one of the most forthcoming local elected officials regarding public business. Commissioner John Justman has yet to demonstrate exactly where he will stand on public transparency.
Of course, there are reasons to limit how much information is released to the public — issues such as potential litigation, contract negotiations and certain personnel questions.
But all too often, elected officials — acting on the advice of attorneys or administrators — view the requirements of open meetings laws and open records laws as the absolute maximum they should do to keep the public informed, rather than the minimum they are required to do.
We have never understood that line of reasoning. Why not do more to keep the public informed, rather than less?
For instance, even though Colorado law says workshops for local government entities “do not necessarily require minutes,” recordings or minutes of workshops are clearly not prohibited. Why not provide records of such meetings, especially since they are often where the bulk of the discussion on a particular issue occurs, even if no formal vote is taken?
And why not provide more detailed and up-to-date notice of what is expected to occur at these meetings, in formats more easily accessible than a bulletin board outside a meeting room?
Pugliese hopes to partially remedy that situation for the county through her Twitter account.
Elected officials may not be intentionally trying to conceal issues or problems from the public when they choose the least-transparent means of conducting their business, but they certainly create the perception they have something to hide when they act in such a manner.
It would benefit the elected officials — especially new members of the City Council — and their constituents if they pushed for as much openness as possible, rather than ducking behind legal barriers and claiming, “This is all we have to do.”