Cortez Fire shows confusion on public meeting rules

Friday, July 14, 2017 2:48 PM
The Cortez Fire Protection District’s board of directors received a primer on Colorado’s Sunshine Laws after an calling for an illegal executive session on June 14.

After an attempt to hold an illegal executive session at their June meeting, members of the Cortez Fire Protection District’s board of directors said on Wednesday they now have a better understanding of Colorado’s public meeting laws.

During the Wednesday meeting, board member Sherri Wright suggested everyone on the board undergo a special training on executive sessions and the Colorado Sunshine Laws, since she believed there was some “confusion” about the subject at the June 14 meeting. Board member Rodney Branson had asked for an executive session at that meeting, even though it was not posted on the agenda as required by the Colorado Open Records Law.

“I strongly recommend that we have a board training to learn this stuff so that we don’t have these discussions again,” Wright said.

But board president Orly Lucero said he and other board members had studied the Colorado Special District Association meeting guidelines, and wouldn’t let such a breach in protocol happen again.

“I think everything came out clear,” he said. “The procedure of the executive session – I think everybody got it.”

According to minutes from the June meeting, which were published on the district’s website on Thursday, Branson had asked for an executive session to discuss an anonymous letter he received with complaints about the fire station. Although he did not present the full letter at the meeting, he said the complaints included a claim that the fire station didn’t have enough working smoke detectors. Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said the circuit board that controls the smoke detectors hadn’t been working because of a leaky roof, but the district had just ordered a new one. He also asked that future concerns about the station be brought directly to him instead of to the board, which doesn’t control fire operations.

The minutes show that Wright, who participated in the meeting by conference call, and administrative assistant Wendy Mimiaga objected to an executive session because it would violate the Colorado Sunshine Laws’ guidelines for public meetings.

Colorado statute requires all executive sessions to be posted on a public agenda at least 24 hours in advance, including the reason for the session. The Special District Association rules also state that “an executive session is appropriate to discuss personnel matters concerning a specific individual,” as long as the individual is notified in advance, but not to discuss general policy matters.

Other actionDuring the meeting, the board of directors also:

Heard an update on the new fire station’s construction from Virgil Gray of Weeminuche Construction Authority. He said the company that was hired to remove asbestos from the old administration building had received approval from the state after an unexpected delay in June, and the demolition should proceed soon.Heard reports from Vandevoorde, administrative assistant Wendy Mimiaga, and assistant chief Shawn Bittle.Approved the district’s 2016 audit report from Heidi Trainor.

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To learn more about the Colorado Sunshine Laws and other public meeting laws, go to and click on “Resources.”