OPINION: Clear as mud

On July 25, 2017, the Delta County Independent ran a “clarification” confirming that the county revised its agenda for the July 17 commissioner public meeting and made it accessible to the public after the meeting had begun. In the article, Robbie LeValley, the county’s administrator, reported, “the revision was posted on the administration bulletin board at the county courthouse on Saturday July 15…. But, because of the weekend, the online agenda was not updated until 8:15 am Monday morning (after the meeting had begun.)”

The article further cited a Citizen Report “complaint” in a previous letter to the editor in which we stated that the agenda under which Commission Chair Doug Atchley called the July 17 public meeting to order was drastically different from the one posted on Friday, July 14. (See both agendas below.)

The problem with the county’s designated posting location, i.e., the county courthouse, is that the building is locked after 5pm, Monday through Friday, and all day on the weekends making the agenda inaccessible to the public, a fact Citizen Report confirmed with Sheriff Fred McKee earlier this week.

This is potentially a violation of the Open Meetings Act that requires public posting since the physical posting of the agenda was tantamount to being filed in a locked cabinet drawer and the online posting missed the 24-hour prior notice mark by a long shot.

Back in January 2016, Citizen Report asked the commissioners to change the official designation location for the posting of meetings and to provide more detailed descriptions of the topics to be addressed — at that time, only county departments where being identified and did not include specified discussion topics. We explained how important a timely, detailed and accessible agenda is to the public and to government transparency and communication.

Citizen Report was brushed off by our Commissioners and Administrator LeValley when they told us that they believed their current location and timing met the “letter of the law.”

We don’t believe, however, that it does, and the July 17 meeting agenda is a perfect example.

Further, this particular meeting was not without controversy and ethically required as much public disclosure as possible suggesting potential misconduct on the part of our county government, and, at the very least, violated the spirit of the law.

The Open Meetings Act is among the most fundamental of rights for citizens where government transparency, accuracy and accountability is concerned.

Citizen Report will continue to ask that Robbie LeValley produce a timely, detailed and accessible agenda to each and every public meeting and that County Commissioners do more than just follow “the letter of law.”

JoAnn Kalenak
Hotchkiss, CO

Public Meeting Agenda originally posted on Friday, July 14, 2017

Public Meeting Agenda physically posted on Saturday, July 14, 2017 and later posted to the county website on Monday, July 17, 2017, 8:12 am