Judge Rules Loveland Council Violated
'Open Meetings' Law

Loveland - July 1, 2011

District Court Judge Devin Odell ruled today the Loveland City Council violated Colorado Open Meetings Law (C.R.S. Section 24-6-402)
during closed meetings conducted between August 21 and September 7 last year regarding candidates for city manager.

Judge Odell ordered approximately 40 minutes of tape recordings from those closed meetings that he reviewed in chambers be released
to the public by the Loveland City Clerk.  The ruling was the result of a request made by the Loveland Reporter-Herald (RH) to review
the recordings from the closed sessions where one candidate for Loveland City Manager was removed from consideration.  After the
City of Loveland refused to release the tapes, the Loveland RH litigated.  The RH prevailed in their court action and are expected to
receive reimbursement by the city of some $45,000 in legal fees.

State law allows public officials to meet in private in very limited circumstances.  When issues involve a negotiation where release of the
information could hurt the city's position or personnel matters the city is allowed to close their doors to the public.  All other
deliberations of locally elected bodies should be conducted in public meetings noticed to the public through agendas that announce what
items will be discussed or decided in the public meetings.  Colorado, like most other states, enacted its 'sunshine' laws in the early 1970's
in an effort to fight local corruption and keep the process open to public scrutiny.  Unpopular with both city staff and their elected
bosses, open meeting laws often fall victim to crafty definitions and cleverly disguised meeting notices that attempt to cover the real
purpose of meetings by city officials being held behind closed doors.  

Ironically, a number of current council members including Mayor Cecil Gutierrez campaigned for local office by promising to end
controversial closed session meetings by their predecessors.  As reported by
LovelandPolitics in 2008  (see blog comments from 2008)
the Loveland City Council under the tutelage of former City Manager Don Williams would meet developers, special interest groups and
each other in an attempt to decide the city's position before informing the public about an issue.

Ironically, Mayor Gutierrez along with others campaigned on promises to stop unnecessary closed session meetings when first running
for City Council.  While Councilman Kent Solt has challenged Loveland City Attorney John Duval in the past regarding inappropriate
closed sessions, he was not supported by his colleagues with the occasional exception of Joan Shaffer maybe once or twice.

City Attorney At Risk?

One City Councilman told LovelandPolitics last year that he believed City Attorney John Duval would likely be "looking for work" should
the city not prevail in the open meetings law litigation with the Loveland RH.  Loveland's current council is populated by no less than
four attorneys (Donna Rice, Cat McEwen, Kent Solt and Carol Johnson) and one paralegal, Joan Shaffer.  While Kent Solt did refuse
occasionally in the past to vote for going into closed session, it appears the vote for the August 21, 2010 meeting that was in question in
the litigation was supported unanimously by the Loveland City Council.  This could spell political trouble for the Mayor and councilors
who will need to face the voters this November to continue in their current positions.

Duval has a long history of permitting various topics....(to be continued later)
Right to left: Council Members Donna Rice, Daryle Klassen, Hugh McKean,
Cat McEwen, Kent Solt, Joan Shaffer, Carol Johnson with City Attorney John Duval,
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Heckel, Mayor Cecil Gutierrez and City Manager Bill Cahill.