Vidal closes the door to the public on special budget meetings

Categories: News, Politics

Thumbnail image for bill vidal cropped.JPG
Mayor Bill Vidal.
Denver city officials are engaging in some interesting wordplay in an effort to keep a special budgetary task force's meetings behind closed doors. The Structural Financial Task Force -- comprised of 21 community, business and civic leaders -- was recently convened by Mayor Bill Vidal to "address the structural deficit the City and County of Denver faces in future years." But according to the Denver Post, the city is barring the public as well asmembers of the media from attending the group's monthly meetings.

Such a ban would seem to be a clear violation of Colorado's sunshine law, which generally holds that any meeting convened to discuss public business must be open to the public. The Vidal administration, however, says that members of the task force must be free from public scrutiny if they are to come up with real -- and potentially politically explosive -- recommendations on how to solve Denver's deepest, longstanding budget troubles.

City Attorney David Fine has offered some curious legal justifications for why these obviously public meetings are not public meetings. Fine argues that this task force is somehow different from the multitude of other city boards and commissions because it has not been "formally constituted" to perform any particular power or duty. Even more interesting, he told the Post that the state's sunshine laws don't apply anyway, because Denver is a home-rule city and has open-meetings statutes of its own.

As an interim mayor who'll be out of office in July, Vidal knows he has only a few months to push through these important financial reforms. But keeping these meetings secret will set a disturbing precedent that could enable future city leaders to circumvent the public process in exchange for political expediency.

Let's save the wordplay for the 2012 budget presentation.

This isn't the only meeting on a pressing city issue that's banning the press. Westword editor Patricia Calhoun was disinvited from yesterday's meeting of mobile food-truck vendors; you can read the current draft of the city's Food Truck Guide here.



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4 comments
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Don
Don

The purpose is to keep out the blow hards and special interests. Letting them and especially the media will insure nothing gets done. Openness is fine but not with todays mentality of humans.

Robert
Robert

The criminals' purpose is irrelevant, except at sentencing. The law prohibits the meetings of the budgetary task force from being held in secret -- what don't you understand?

Robert
Robert

C.R.S. 24-6-402(1)(a) "Local public body" means any board, committee, commission, authority, or other advisory, policy-making, rule-making, OR formally constituted body of any political subdivision of the state ... [emphasis added]

(2)(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.

The budgetary task force is a local public body, and its meetings are open to the public at all times. Fine is a liar and is committing malfeasance.

Please apprise us of the time and place of the task force's next meeting so we may attend.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

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