Crawford vote skirts state's Sunshine law

By Tamie Meck


Crawford Town Council appears to have violated Colorado Open Meetings Law (Sunshine Law) in conducting town business without proper public notification.

Colorado's Sunshine Law provides that public business, including votes by council members, may not be conducted without public knowledge or proper notification.

In this case, Mayor Wanda Gofforth revealed at the July 20 work session that sometime between the July 6 meeting and July 20, council unanimously voted to approve town attorney James Brown in representing the town clerk and the town in a civil case filed against a Crawford citizen.

That case, a civil protection order, was filed June 30 in Delta County Court by town clerk Cally Gallegos against Crawford resident Carl Page. Gallegos alleges that Page threatened her and has been bullying the former mayor and town clerk after Page requested contact information for town trustees.

At a July 22 continued hearing, the court allowed for a motion to intervene filed by town attorney James D. Brown with Brown & Camp, LLC, which allows Brown to represent the town (see related story on B1).

During the public comment portion of the work session, Crawford resident Jay Ziegler asked council for clarification on whether it must have a majority vote to enact a decision, to which Mayor Wanda Gofforth replied, "Well, yeah, a majority vote, yes."

"So I see that attorney James Brown has been retained by the town against one of our citizens," said Ziegler. "I was wondering, a: How much does it cost? and b: Who were the four votes to create this majority?"

"It was a hundred percent vote," replied Gofforth. "And we have not discussed those bills yet. And that's not going to be a discussion for this evening, because that is something we can't talk about."

Since no public vote was taken to retain Brown, the DCI asked when the vote was taken.

Gofforth responded that the board was not going to discuss the case against Page.

"I would second her question," said Ziegler.

"What was your question?" Gofforth asked the DCI.

"When was the vote taken?"

"We did it as an individual vote," replied Gofforth. "We made a call and did that, because we did not have a call session coming up. And that was approved by the attorney, so."

Before sitting down, Ziegler verified that it was a "100 percent vote?"

"Yes," said Gofforth.

Brown did not return phone calls by the DCI requesting clarification on the direction he provided council.

Under Colorado Revised Statute 24-6-401, local government is required to discuss public business or to take formal action in meetings that are open to the public. It defines a meeting as "any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, in person, by telephone, electronically, or by other means of communication." Any public business, including votes by council members, may not be conducted without public knowledge or proper notification.

The DCI can find no evidence that a motion was made or seconded, that a vote was called, that the public was given an opportunity to comment, or that 24-hour notice was posted of a special meeting, as required under C.R.S. 24-6-401.

Brown did not return phone calls by the DCI requesting clarification on the direction he provided council.