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Proposed "Work Sessions" Before Montezuma Commission Meetings Raise Questions

Austin Cope

The new chairman of the Montezuma County commission plans to start holding half-hour work sessions before the regular weekly meetings, but another commissioner says he won’t attend, and questions remain about whether the sessions will be open to the public. On Monday, Chairman James Lambert proposed the work sessions as a time to become familiar with correspondence and upcoming agenda items. Larry Don Suckla said he prepares on his own time and sees no value in having longer meetings. Commissioner Keenan Ertel suggested staff email background materials to the board well in advance of each meeting, but said he is willing to come to the 8:30 a.m. sessions. The commissioners were asked whether the sessions will be public. County attorney John Baxter said that would be up to them. Longtime commission observer M.B. McAfee objected, noting that Colorado law requires meetings of a local public body to be open unless they are executive sessions on specially defined topics. Baxter said the work sessions could be closed if the board isn’t planning to make any decisions. However, state law says open public meetings are those “at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken. . .” There was general agreement that the work sessions would be open unless the board decides otherwise, but when and why they might do so was not definitively resolved. However, Suckla said he believes the board has, on the whole, been very transparent.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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