Judge orders town to make executive session recording public

Judge Gregory G. Lyman of the 6th Judicial District has ordered the Town of Pagosa Springs to “make available for inspection,” 42 minutes of a recording of town council’s executive session from Sept. 17 of last year.

The order was filed Aug. 8 in the suit captioned William Hudson v. April Hessman, Town Clerk, which challenges the legality of council’s action in allowing a “contract adversary” to participate in the executive session.

Principals of the Springs Partners LLC were the persons referred to in the suit as contract adversaries.

According to the agenda for council’s Sept. 17, 2015, meeting, the executive session was held in connection with “Determining Positions Relative to Matters that may be Subject to Negotiations, Developing Strategy for Negotiations, and Instructing Negotiators,” regarding a possible “Revision to Springs Partners 10 Year Vested Right Agreement.”

Lyman’s order stated that he had privately reviewed the recording of the executive session, consistent with his prior order in the case granting plaintiff and local resident Bill Hudson’s motion.

Hudson’s motion called for review of the recording by Lyman in order to make the legal assessment whether the executive session had met the requirements of Colorado law.

Lyman’s order describes the recorded discussion between council and Springs Partners as “candid and informative.” It notes that, during the executive session, the town expressed concerns revolving around construction of a bridge over the San Juan River as allowed in the vested rights agreement.

The order goes on to state that, “The Springs Partners described their dilemma of not being able to attract investors for their proposed development if there was uncertainty about whether such a bridge would ultimately be constructed.”

Lyman noted that he perceived nothing “inappropriate, secretive, or corrupt about any of the dialogue” in the recorded executive session. However, he agreed with the plaintiff that Springs Partners were a contract adversary. He further agreed that Colorado law regarding the proper scope of executive session did not permit the town to withhold the recording “from public inspection.”

Town Manager Greg Schulte advised The SUN on Aug.17 that under Colorado law there is an automatic 14-day stay of Lyman’s order. The town has a right of appeal.

Schulte said that Steve Dawes, a Denver-area attorney who is representing the town in connection with Hudson’s suit, will provide the town legal advice respecting its rights at council’s meeting tonight. The meeting agenda accordingly includes an item for possible executive session for that purpose.

Schulte said that he expects,“council will decide whether to appeal,” and its decision will be announced after the discussion with Dawes.

Schulte noted that expenses for representation of the town in connection with the suit are being paid by its insurance company.

He also said that if the town does not appeal Lyman’s order, the recording will promptly be made available for inspection.

 

This story was posted on August 18, 2016.