Commissioner: Board to be transparent with public

Questions remain over dismissal of county administrator; officials mum

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I am confused. We voted overwhelmingly for Rose Pugliese and John Justman because they represented “WHAT?”....change?  Aquafresca has been extremely slitherly about his role in this meeting.  He has been in office long enough to know the procedures and how NOT to proceed.  Did he have a vendetta against Unfug?  I have been in supervisory positions for years and the first thing you DO NOT DO is immediately get rid of the very people that can orient you to historic and contemporary “lay of the land.”  Since Aquafresca was the only one of the Commissioners that had worked with Unfug, why has he not been more forthcoming with why he would encourage the new Commissioners to delete Unfug’s influence?  This kind of musical chairs with high level county officials is fiscally unsound.  It costs the taxpayers in county time, Unfug’s severance, county attorney time, Commissioner time to find another administrator, orientation time for new Commissioners and a new administrator…need I go on.  Basically this change has cost the taxpayers of this county I would estimate at better then $3 million dollars and I would really love to see the Commissioners refute that estimate with real numbers and then publish it.  They need to remember they work for the people and EVERY decision that they make needs to be measured and transparent and honorable.  That’s what they wanted from their Commissioners.  That what we want from ours.

Apparently, in Mesa County governance, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  We have apparently elected scofflaws—again!

In March 2007, our Board of County Commissioners (“BOCC”) learned that the Mesa County Public Library District’s Board of Trustees was routinely violating Colorado’s Sunshine Law by holding un-noticed non-public (and thus “secret”) meetings (described as “executive sessions”) – a fact confirmed by the Library Board’s own admissions in documents and tapes reluctantly disclosed under the Colorado Open Records Act.

To its credit, that BOCC – which included then newly-installed Commissioner Steve Acquafresca – ostensibly directed long-time County Attorney Lyle Dechant to conduct annual refresher courses for all county boards and commissions (including the Mesa County Planning Commission, of which now-County Commissioner John Justman eventually became chairman) to insure their knowledge of and compliance with Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

Seemingly, at least as far as the BOCC itself is concerned, that admirable practice has since fallen into disuse –– Commissioner Rose Pugliese’s recent lip-service to “transparency” notwithstanding.  (See, e.g., “Commissioner:  Board to be transparent with public; Questions remain over dismissal of county administrator; officials mum”, February 8, 2013.)

C.R.S. § 24-6-401 declares that “that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret”.  As interpreted by Colorado’s Supreme Court, any gathering of two county commissioners at which public business is to be discussed is a de facto “meeting” that must be timely and publicly noticed under C.R.S. § 24-6-402.

On Friday, February 8, 2013, apparently without proper public notice, Commissioners Pugliese and Justman reportedly met “informally” with Tea Party supporters to discuss “the way forward” – including unrestricted oil and gas development, kicking the BLM out of Mesa County, and ousting the present Grand Junction City Council!

Fortunately, while many concerned citizens have become accustomed to our elected Commissioners’ arrogant disregard for Colorado law, the Daily Sentinel has not.

                Bill Hugenberg

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