VIDEO: City Council Discusses NRCDC Board Composition, Part Four

Read Part One

NOTE: At first, we thought the NRC issues raised at Tuesday’s Salida City Council meeting could be addressed with two short videos.  As it turns out, we are going to need at least three to tell the story properly.  Video number two is included in this article, near the bottom of the page.

As I mentioned yesterday in Part Three, I did not attend the board meeting of the Natural Resource Center Development Corporation (NRCDC) held in the Methodist Room at City Hall at 11am Tuesday, although I did attend the 8:30am City Council Work Session held that same morning in the Council Chambers (where the meeting was recorded and televised.)  I also attended a scheduled tour of the City’s water treatment plant, out on County Road 120, where our Council members learned about possible issues facing that 60-year-old treatment plant, from plant manager Lonnie Oversole.

Following the treatment plant tour, I went back to work.  I didn’t attend the NRCDC board meeting at 11am.  I now wish I had.

City Council member Mike Bowers — who represents my ward, Ward 3, on the Council — was likewise present at the 8:30am Council Work Session.  And he was present at the 9:30am tour of the water treatment plant.

Following the treatment plant tour, I understand, Mr. Bowers went to work at his job with the County Sheriff’s office.  Mr. Bowers did not attend the NRCDC board meeting in the Methodist Room at City Hall, at 11am.

That was probably a good thing.  Colorado state law prohibits meetings of the City Council unless those meetings are properly and legally noticed.  Here’s a quote from CRS 24-6-402, “Meetings – open to public” — otherwise known as the Colorado Sunshine Law.  From Section 2(c):

(c) Any meetings at which the adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action occurs or at which a majority or quorum of the body is in attendance, or is expected to be in attendance, shall be held only after full and timely notice to the public. 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 24 hours prior to the holding of the meeting.

The NRCDC board, as it existed on Tuesday morning, included Council members Tom Yerkey and Keith Baker.  If Mr. Bowers had attended that board meeting, the number of Council members in attendance would have come dangerously close to a quorum.  If any other Council members, other than Mr. Yerkey and Mr. Baker, were at that 11am meeting, we might have had a quorum present — and a legal requirement that the meeting be noticed and posted as an official City Council meeting.

I don’t believe City administrator Dara MacDonald and City attorney Karl Hanlon had posted the NRCDC meeting as an official City Council meeting.

So maybe it’s a good thing that Mr. Bowers was not present at that meeting.  On the other hand, maybe it was a big mistake not to invite him, considering what happened later, on Tuesday evening at the noticed and posted City Council meeting.

The Colorado Sunshine Law has other sections, of course.  For example, it mentions the requirement to hold meetings publicly, whenever two or more members of a publicly elected body are in attendance.

Section 2(b):

(b) All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.

This may explain why the City Council, in its wisdom, appointed only two Council members to the board of the NRCDC.  This allowed the NRCDC board to legally hold meetings “out of the public eye” whenever necessary.  From what I understand, all of the NRCDC board meetings, up until Tuesday, have been conducted privately.  If the NRCDC board had included three Council members, all of its meetings would have been open to the public.

Neither Mr. Bowers nor myself knows exactly who attended the NRCDC board meeting at 11am Tuesday.  We were both at work.  But we both might assume, from the way the City Council meeting unfolded later that same evening, that some very important decisions were made at that NRCDC meeting by certain individuals.  Those decisions contradicted the written Resolution 2013-14 as sent out to the Council and to members of the public last Friday.

A quote from Resolution 2013-14, as published:

The Council gave direction at their regular meeting on February 19, 2013 to alter the composition of the Salida NRC board.  The City Council directed that the board should consist of 7 members.  At least four of these members must be residents of the City of Salida and two of the members should be members of the City Council.

At the 6pm City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 5, the Council did, indeed, vote in favor of changing the total number of NRCDC board members to seven.

But when mayor Don Stephens and Council member Mike Bowers tried to proceed with Resolution 2013-14 as written — requiring at least four members to be City residents — the conversation was repeatedly re-directed by City attorney Karl Hanlon.  (Mr. Hanlon also serves as attorney for the NRCDC, we must remember.)

It soon became apparent that a “slate” of candidates had been previously agreed upon by certain members of the City government… and that slate didn’t align with Resolution 2013-14.  Three of the four people on the slate lived outside the city limits, and if you added those three to a seven-member board that also included former County commissioner Tim Glenn — also not a city resident — then the Council would clearly be in violation of its published Resolution 2013-14.

What to do?  Did we need to publish a new resolution, with new specifications, and invite the public to speak on the matter?

Apparently not.

Read Part Five…

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson spent a pleasant 18 months living in downtown Salida, during which time he did his best to understand the inhabitants and their motivations. He then escaped back to Pagosa Springs to resume his work at PagosaDailyPost.com