Eleven candidates submitted applications for two open seats on the Montezuma County Planning and Zoning Board.
The candidates are Janine Denney, Haley Leonard Saunders, Mindy Nelsen, Neal Hollingsworth, Jeff Coulon, Bud Garner, Tony Hill, Lars Forsythe, Dave Watters, Tom Seymour and Zac Fahrion.
Board members Kelly Belt and Bob Clayton are stepping down from the board after serving two consecutive terms.
“This is the most interest in the planning board we have seen, and it is appreciated,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel.
The county commissioners conducted interviews with nine candidates Friday during a public meeting that had been posted. Two additional candidates will be interviewed Tuesday.
Each candidate was interviewed separately. The three commissioners and planning department staff presented eight questions and four planning and zoning scenarios to each applicant.
They will appoint one board member for a three-year term and an alternate. The other board members are Rob Pope, Stan Pierce Mike Rosso and Joel Stevenson.
The county had indicated the interviews would be held in executive session, citing the personnel matters exemption for a closed meeting.
After The Journal objected to the closed meeting under Colorado Open Meeting laws, the commissioners agreed to hold the meeting in open session.
Candidate interviews for a government board do not qualify for an executive session under the personnel category, said Steve Zansberg, a media attorney and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
An El Paso District Court ruled on the matter in 1997, and it applies to this situation, he said.
El Paso County commissioners had intended to hold interviews for Board of Health candidates, citing the exemption to hold public meetings to discuss personnel matters. An individual objected, and the matter went to court.
The El Paso County District court ruled that the personnel matters executive session exemption “is limited to discussion of issues concerning current employees, not applicants for government employment.”
The court found no exemptions in the Sunshine Law statutes that would permit the county commissioners to conduct the interviews in executive sessions.
The interviews with the Planning and Zoning candidates could have been held behind closed doors if there was only one commissioner involved. If two or more commissioners meet to discuss public business, it qualifies as a public meeting that requires public posting.