Commissioners hold illegal meeting through email

On July 17, Archuleta County Commissioners Michael Whiting and Clifford Lucero violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law through email communications.

Because of the violations, Whiting gave the emails to SUN staff, which primarily concern a letter of cooperation from the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners to the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

In the agenda for the BoCC July 19 meeting, the purpose of the letter is described as a “letter from the Board of County Commissioners encouraging cooperative efforts between the Southwest Water Conservation District and the San Juan Water Conservancy District.”

In an email dated July 14 addressed to staff, fellow commissioners and Rod Proffitt, Whiting states that the letter, originally drafted by Proffitt, was an endorsement of the Dry Gulch project, as the letter “favorably mentions ‘Dry Gulch’ five times in five short paragraphs.”

County Attorney Todd Starr explained to SUN staff that it is legal for a commissioner to email his thoughts and information to fellow commissioners, assuming the commissioners who received the email don’t respond.

Colorado state statute defines a “meeting” as “any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, in person, by telephone, electronically, or by other means of communication.”

Whiting’s email goes on to say that he recommended an edit to the letter several times which would state, “this letter should in no way be construed or represented as support or endorsement of a so-called ‘Dry Gulch Project.’”

On July 17 Lucero replied to the email.

Lucero wrote, “We need to take this letter to a vote, I’m getting tired of playing politics, it’s time to take the letter to a vote and let the letter die if it must, the vote will not be a unanimous vote but that is the way it works.”

Whiting then replied, stating, “We are, in fact, taking the letter to a vote at our BoCC meeting on Tuesday the 19th. But you know that already. We voted to do that at our last meeting two weeks ago.”

At this point Starr, who had been copied on the emails, wrote, “These email communications constitute a meeting and are therefore a violation of the Open Meetings Law- Please stop.”

At the July 19 meeting, Lucero moved to accept the drafted letter, which included Whiting’s edit that clarified that the letter did not endorse the Dry Gulch Project.

However, the movement died because Commissioner Steve Wadley wouldn’t second the motion.

The BoCC then moved on with the rest of the agenda items for its meeting.

 

 

This story was posted on August 4, 2016.