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The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Town barely notifies residents of a “special” meeting Monday

Feb. 1, 2024

By Matt Lit, managing editor.

Early Monday afternoon a resident notified The Crestone Eagle that the Town of Crestone was holding a “special” meeting to discuss and act on financial matters. The meeting — while legally notified with a notice at the post office — barely meets the requirements of the Colorado Open Meetings law.

The Crestone Eagle is on an email list to be notified of meetings. Our reporter, Anya Kaats, is also on this list. Neither of us received notification 24 hours in advance as required by the law. The Open Meetings Law is a fickle thing. On the one hand the obscure notice at the post office serves as legal notice. However, a 2019 addition to the Open Meetings Law adds electronic notices to the requirements and at the same time is limited in scope or governmental body responsibility. 

The Open Meetings Law 2019 addition states in part, “…however, that unintentional failure to provide such advance notice will not nullify actions taken at an otherwise properly published meeting.” 

I was able to have a back and forth email session with the Colorado Sun editors about this. They brought in Jeffrey Roberts, Executive Director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. He provided me the information which I then emailed to town trustees and the mayor. In the law, the town barely meets its 24-hour notice requirement by posting at the post office. 

Because the barely-announced meeting fell on a production deadline — and no response was received by the town —  The Crestone Eagle was unable to publish anything in the February issue. The Crestone Eagle will provide follow up on business conducted at the “special” meeting. As yet, The Eagle has not received the meeting recording or minutes. 

Here is the email sent by The Crestone Eagle Monday afternoon. We have yet to receive a reply or response of any sort from the town or its officials. 

To the Crestone Town Trustees, 

It has come to my attention that the Town of Crestone held a special meeting this morning with the only notice being posted at the post office and town hall. 

While this falls within Colorado’s Open Meeting Law — and is therefore technically legal — there is an addition to the Open Meetings Law from 2019 that the town failed to honor. 

In an email to my query, Jeffrey A. Roberts, executive director for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, informed me of this additional information (the underlined, bolded and highlighted text is direct from Roberts’ email): 

In addition to any other means of full and timely notice, a local public body shall be deemed to have given full and timely notice if the notice of the meeting is posted in a designated public place within the boundaries of the local public body no less than twenty-four hours prior to the holding of the meeting. The public place or places for posting such notice shall be designated annually at the local public body’s first regular meeting of each calendar year. The posting shall include specific agenda information where possible.

The option to post online was added in 2019.

(III) On and after July 1, 2019, a local public body shall be deemed to have given full and timely notice of a public meeting if the local public body posts the notice, with specific agenda information if available, no less than twenty-four hours prior to the holding of the meeting on a public website of the local public body. The notice must be accessible at no charge to the public. The local public body shall, to the extent feasible, make the notices searchable by type of meeting, date of meeting, time of meeting, agenda contents, and any other category deemed appropriate by the local public body and shall consider linking the notices to any appropriate social media accounts of the local public body. A local public body that provides notice on a website pursuant to this subsection (2)(c)(III) shall provide the address of the website to the department of local affairs for inclusion in the inventory maintained pursuant to section 24-32-116. A local public body that posts a notice of a public meeting on a public website pursuant to this subsection (2)(c)(III) may in its discretion also post a notice by any other means including in a designated public place pursuant to subsection (2)(c)(I) of this section; except that nothing in this section shall be construed to require such other posting. A local public body that posts notices of public meetings on a public website pursuant to this subsection (2)(c)(III) shall designate a public place within the boundaries of the local public body at which it may post a notice no less than twenty-four hours prior to a meeting if it is unable to post a notice online in exigent or emergency circumstances such as a power outage or an interruption in internet service that prevents the public from accessing the notice online.

And

24-6-402(7) The secretary or clerk of each state public body or local public body shall maintain a list of persons who, within the previous two years, have requested notification of all meetings or of meetings when certain specified policies will be discussed and shall provide reasonable advance notification of such meetings, provided, however, that unintentional failure to provide such advance notice will not nullify actions taken at an otherwise properly published meeting. The provisions of this subsection (7) shall not apply to the day-to-day oversight of property or supervision of employees by county commissioners, as provided in paragraph (f) of subsection (2) of this section.

Both myself and reporter Anya Kaats have asked to be on your email list for meeting notices. We have received these, however we did not receive notice of today’s special meeting. Also, I have, in the past, encouraged the town to send me notices so we can work in collaboration and post these to The Crestone Eagle website and social media platforms (Facebook). 

The town’s failure to properly notify us (in my opinion) hints at the attempt to hide information and conduct business in a non-transparent manner. 

For future meetings, including “special’ and “emergency” meetings, I am asking to receive notices that meet the Open Meeting Law requirement of 24 hours. I would also hope the town will send these notices so that The Crestone Eagle is able to post these publicly through our website and social media. 

Mr. Roberts provided me this link with additional clarifying information.

It is my ultimate goal to work with the town in helping it conduct its business in a transparent manner. 

Sincerely, 

Matthew Lit, managing editor
CrestoneEagle.org
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