From Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition:
By Jeffrey A. Roberts, CFOIC Executive Director
Buried in Tuesday’s Colorado election results was a measure approved by Littleton residents that severely restricts the City Council’s ability to discuss public business in private.
The city charter amendment, approved by 74 percent of voters, permits the council and all other city boards and commissions to call closed-door meetings (executive sessions) for only two reasons: 1) to discuss matters that must be kept confidential because of state and federal laws and 2) to seek legal advice from a city attorney on court actions that already have been filed. All executive sessions must be recorded in their entirety, and the recordings must be kept on file in the city clerk’s office until council members present at the meeting are no longer in office.
Littleton’s executive-session rules will now be much more restrictive than the Colorado Open Meetings Law, also known as the Sunshine Law, and more limiting than executive-session rules in most other home-rule cities in Colorado. An exception is Boulder, whose city charter does not allow executive sessions for any reason.
Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires the recording of local-government executive sessions, but the recorder may be turned off when council members get “privileged” legal advice from their attorneys. Under Littleton’s new charter provision, the council will not be allowed to turn off the recorder during an executive session. The state’s Sunshine Law lets local elected officials meet privately with attorneys to discuss specific legal questions, even if there is not a pending or imminent court action, but in Littleton such closed-door discussions with counsel will now have to concern legal matters already on file in a court. Administrative and non-litigation matters must be discussed in meetings open to the public.
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This article is part of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition newsletter. Please see here for the complete newsletter. The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition is a member of NFOIC. –eds