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District Court Judge Gregory Lyman ruled in favor of Archuleta County and, more specifically, Clifford Lucero Tuesday afternoon by awarding $3,589.26 in legal costs to Lucero.
The award follows the March dismissal of a lawsuit against Lucero.
In March, in the midst of Sunshine Week (celebrating law that requires government openness), Lyman granted Archuleta County’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit concerning the Colorado Open Records Act that was levied against Clifford Lucero, Archuleta County commissioner, by blogger Bill Hudson.
Hudson’s lawsuit aimed to gain access to a recording of a Sept. 1, 2010, executive session in which the BoCC met with a variety of parties related to a joint push for a grant that would allow area governmental agencies to increase their broadband capabilities.
Among those in attendance were representatives of an Internet company, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, town, county and others.
Immediately following the executive session, the BoCC voted in favor of sending a letter of support for the grant, a letter that had been continued from a previous meeting in order for the executive session to be held.
On Sept. 2, 2010, Hudson requested a copy of the recording from BoCC Chair Clifford Lucero.
In Lucero’s stead, Archuleta County attorney Todd Starr responded, denying Hudson’s request and arguing that the executive session was held legally, prompting Hudson to file suit on Oct. 1 of the same year.
That suit claimed that notice of the meeting was improper and vague, thus putting the county in violation of the Open Meetings Law.
Hudson also claimed that the inclusion of several parties, including Southwest Colorado Broadband, formed for the purpose of the grant, Internet provider SkyWerx and Town of Pagosa Springs representatives, “destroyed otherwise privileged communications.”
“The relevant facts suggest that the BoCC likely invited the Archuleta County Attorney to attend the executive session as a matter of routine practice,” Hudson’s complaint stated.
After Hudson filed a complaint with the court, Archuleta County countered with a motion to dismiss on Nov. 1, 2010, stating that the session was held legally and Hudson incorrectly requested the records, including that Lucero was not a custodian of records for the county and that records requests must be filed with the official custodian.
According to the order granting the dismissal in March of 2012, per Rule 12(b)(5), Lyman noted the lawsuit was dismissed on a number of grounds, including that Hudson requested the records from Commissioner Clifford Lucero as an individual instead of against the county’s official custodian of records, the county clerk.
In the order dismissing the suit, Lyman stated that “legislature has established a detailed process for requesting and obtaining public records pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act …”
Following the dismissal, the county released the records originally sought by Hudson.
Both Hudson and Lucero authorized their respective attorney to speak on their behalf following the granted motion awarding the costs.
Hudson’s attorney in the suit is Matthew H. Roane, of Roane & Roane LLP.
“We’re disappointed by the ruling,” Roane said. “We do not believe the defendant satisfied the very specific evidentiary burdens that are required to justify damages awards of this type.
Roane said that, in the next several weeks, he and Hudson would consider Hudson’s appellate rights, calling Lyman’s decision, “tough news.”
Starr issued a statement to The SUN via e-mail following Tuesday’s decision, stating, “We were not surprised but still delighted to receive the court’s Order re: Defendant Lucero’s Motion for Award of Costs.
“This matter has been ongoing for almost 3 years now and the taxpayers have spent a great deal of resources fighting Bill Hudson’s reckless use of the judicial system. I am pleased to be able to begin to recover at least a fraction of our time and costs and 100% of what we were entitled to and what we requested.
“At this time I anticipate subpoenaing all of the information pertaining to the rumored sale of the Pagosa Daily Post. My fear is that Mr. Hudson, knowing that this judgment would soon be issued, has been fraudulently transferring assets and if that proves to be the case, we will look to set aside any such transfer, including any transfer of the Daily Post.
“I think this judgment should serve as a stark warning to anybody looking at filing such groundless claims against Archuleta County and its officers, especially those individuals currently pursuing frivolous claims against us in the Federal Court system. Archuleta County will, when appropriate, defend itself with great zealousness and we will recover the people’s resources.
“There is no such thing as ‘good litigation’ but if you are forced to litigate, you strive for a good result for your client and this is as good a result as we could have hoped for at this time.”