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Salida City Attorney Geoff Wilson displays his Sue O’Brien Award, presented to him in honor of a legal career dedicated to the principles of open and transparent government. Joining Wilson are Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeff Roberts, a former Denver Post reporter and editor (left), and CFOIC President Steve Zansberg, who presented the award (courtesy photo).

During the recent Salida City Council meeting, former mayor Jim LiVecchi challenged council members concerning Colorado open meetings law, but those challenges were rebuffed by Salida City Attorney Geoff Wilson.

Wilson recently received the prestigious Sue O’Brien Award for a legal career dedicated to the principles of open government.

LiVecchi initially challenged council regarding the agenda for the meeting, which included reconsideration of the ordinance authorizing the Salida Crossings Planned Development as well as ballot measures for a possible special election.

LiVecchi and former city councilman Hal Brown spearheaded the petition initiative that forced council to reconsider the ordinance. City council’s two options, according to Colorado statutes, were to repeal the original ordinance or affirm the original decision, which would send the issue to Salida voters in a special election.

“It already seems to me that there has been, since we have three questions on the agenda for the ballot language, that you guys have already voted,” LiVecchi said.

“The second thing I’d like to address is I feel that in the packet, items 7, 8 and 9 (concerning ballot measures) are clear violations of the Colorado open meeting laws. Basically, last night there was a work session on these items, but they were already on the agenda. So that tells me that somebody had been talking or referencing to this prior to that being on that.

“So I suggest, not to break the Colorado open meeting laws, that you not put that on the agenda, you eliminate those from the agenda. I just think it’s a clear violation, and we definitely need to make sure that we follow the law.”

Councilman Rusty Granzella asked, “Since we have legal council here, should we ask if we have any concern about items 7, 8 and 9 on our agenda?”

Salida Attorney Geoff Wilson asked Granzella if his question was “about the open meetings law exposure that was alluded to.”

Granzella reponded, “Yeah.”

“I don’t think there’s any exposure whatsoever. … I think it’s clear that it’s not a problem.”

Later in the meeting, Mayor P.T. Wood announced receipt of a letter of resignation from Salida City Administrator Larry Lorentzen. Since discussion of personnel matters requires an executive session, Wood asked city council members if they would prefer to schedule a special executive session meeting later in the week or go into executive session right away.

Based on feedback from council members, Wood asked for a motion to go into executive session.

LiVecchi spoke from the audience: “Point of order, sir. That’s not been posted. It has to be posted. You can’t just … .”

“We have one of the leading experts on open meeting laws here,” said Wood. “Can you advise us on that?” Wood asked, motioning to City Attorney Wilson.

Wilson responded, “The law permits you to call an executive session spontaneously. No advance notice is required.”

At that point, Wood called an executive session.

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