Commissioners refuse to take law seriously

Mesa County commissioners are an obstinate bunch.

No matter how often we question their adherence to state laws that protect the public’s right to know, they continue to flirt with violations.

The most recent example came May 27 when commissioners met for a meeting posted as “Briefing: Audit.”

But no auditors were present. According to the only private citizen in attendance, the commission discussed a policy change regarding non-federal intergovernmental funds — the money the county receives from municipalities for things like animal control and election services.

Commissioners discussed whether the existing policy violated provisions of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

The only reason we know this is because Dennis Simpson, a self-appointed local government watchdog, took notes which he submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as evidence of an Open Meetings Law violation. There are no official minutes of the meeting.

As Simpson pointed out in Monday’s public hearing — in which the commission formally reversed a 7-year-old decision to exempt non-federal intergovernmental funds from revenue calculations — the commissioners had already discussed the matter in the May 27 meeting, which gave the public no hint of a policy debate.

The meeting was not recorded.

Colorado’s Open Meetings Law defines a public meeting as one in which a quorum of board members discusses or makes a decision on public business and requires counties to keep minutes for a meeting in which a decision could or does occur.

It’s a matter of legal interpretation as to whether the county violated the letter of the law because it took no official action in the May 27 meeting. It simply agreed to take an official vote at Monday’s public hearing. But commissioners violated the spirit of the law, which calls for transparency when public officials are conducting the people’s business.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca quickly said, “No,” when asked if commissioners violated the law. But Commissioner Rose Pugliese was less decisive. She acknowledged Simpson made a good argument that the May 27 discussion “was not a proper meeting.”

If she feels that way — and she should — Pugliese needs to be more assertive. She seems to be the only commissioner who recognizes that the county’s indifference to sunshine laws undermines the public trust. Therefore, she remains the best hope of righting a listing ship. Making sure the county hires an attorney who shares her commitment to transparency is a good start.


COMMENTS

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Jeez. This is no surprise. They’ve been doing it since day 1. Good ole boy Stevie is running for election. Of course he will not admit to obvious wrongdoing. I surely do NOT see Ms Pugliese as any hope for righting anything. She is right there in the good ole girl vein. Ala rowland.

Was Rose “Transparency” Pugliese there?

From the story I would say yes. But I have no first hand knowledge.

Yes, I read the story and knew she was there.  That was just snark.

Thank you, Sentinel, for reminding both citizens and elected officials about Colorado’s Sunshine laws. I truly believe that is one of the things that makes Colorado function better than some other states.

Commitment to transparency? Someone has been reading chairman hussein’s game plan. By the way Stevie is that your job as an ELECTED official to attempt to EXPLOIT “grey areas.” Or is it your job to get clarification of those areas first? I submit that it is the latter. And no, Ms Konola, the “sunshine laws do NOT make the government run better. It is obvious that today’s elected officials could care less. I have lived in several states and thee good ole boys and gals continually circumvent them.

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