County, watchdog haggle over transparency

By Pat Sunderland


On Jan. 31, Delta County Citizen Report (DCCR), an apolitical, nonprofit media organization reporting on Delta County government activities, moved to vacate a temporary protection order hearing in its lawsuit against Delta County Commissioners. In a press release issued last week, DCCR president Jo Ann Kalenak said she believes this action will provide the time for direct negotiations with the commissioners before a permanent protection order hearing date April 6 in Mesa County Court.

While the county insists it is not in violation of any state statutes, as alleged in the lawsuit, it has agreed "to sit down to educate Delta County Citizen Report on our policies, procedures and state statutes."

In a press release issued Monday, county attorney John Baier said, "We believe there is value in better documenting our policies and procedures, and working with any interested citizen or citizen group in improving access to public information."

Delta County Citizen Report states the goal of the lawsuit is to "improve government transparency and open meeting practices."

Among the changes DCCR would like to see:

• The county website included as an official posting site, not just "a courtesy when time and technology allows," as stated by county administrator Robbie LeValley.

• Additional agenda public posting locations including the North Fork Annex and local public libraries.

• Public documents intended to be entered into the record at public meetings be available online at least 24 hours prior to each meeting.

• All commissioner agenda action items and business will be represented by topic and placed under a specific, scheduled time.

• No changes and/or additions made to an agenda within the 24-hour notice period will be allowed.

Baier said the county's current processes and procedures comply with state statutes.

"The county is not allowed to designate the website as the official posting location," he explained in the press release. "There have been numerous efforts in recent years to amend state statutes to allow counties to designate their websites as an official posting location, however this legislation has failed each time it has been brought forward to the state Legislature. Though the county cannot designate the website as an "official posting location," we use the website as much as possible to share information about numerous county activities, meetings, and other relevant information."

In addition, anyone interested in specific issues or topics can sign up for email notifications on the county's website at www.deltacounty.com, or visit the county's official designated posting location, now located in the window at the front door of the courthouse.

Meetings of the county commissioners are open to the public. Questions, comments and concerns can also be emailed to the county commissioners (email addresses are on the website) or be voiced by phone at 874-2100.

For more information on the Delta County Citizen Report, visit www.citizenreport.info.