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Town of Paonia, Brunner headed to court this week

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At the May 22 board meeting, former Paonia town trustee Bill Brunner took exception to the way the executive session was worded on the agenda. The item called for a conference with the town attorney to receive legal advice "specific to Mr. Brunner court case."

Brunner was elected to the board in 2016 and resigned last June while facing sanctions related to his release to the media of a series of emails. In contesting the agenda item, Brunner said the wording gives the impression that he is suing the town.

"The agenda is insufficient under the law to permit you to go into executive session as planned and misleads the public as to the true nature of your business," since there is no "Mr. Brunner court case," said Brunner. "I believe this is a reference to 'custodian of records in her official capacity for the town of Paonia, plaintiff, versus Bill Brunner, defendant." To call it anything else, "hides from the public the fact that it is the town who is responsible for these proceedings."

The suit, he said, was filed "in bad faith," and is an attempt to hide the town's attempts to withhold public records as defined by the Colorado Open Records Act.

Colorado Open Meeting Law permits "a very narrow and specific range of topics and requires that notice be given that is as complete as possible without harming the town's position," said Brunner. "To refer to this serious matter in any way other than by its proper title" is a breech of that law.

Brunner also contested part 2 of the agenda item, "Permission to waive, as necessary, attorney client communication regarding Mr. Brunner court case," stating that it also fails to satisfy the open meetings law.

Brunner said the documents related to the case were handed over to former town Public Works Department employee Eric Pace by order of Delta County Judge Jin Ho Pack during a Nov. 21 hearing (see "Judge rules that Paonia was right and wrong on records request" in the Dec. 20 DCI). Pace, said Brunner, handed those records over to him. "That he has forwarded these to me is beyond your concern and control," said Brunner. "The documents were made public to Mr. Pace, and that is where your concern lies."

Saying he finds it "somewhat humorous" for the board to declare a waiver of attorney-client privilege, "The bell has been rung and you cannot un-ring it," said Brunner.

Mayor Charles Stewart did not respond to Brunner's comments and the board unanimously approved the agenda. Following the executive session, trustees voted unanimously to authorize Stewart to "waive attorney-client privilege for a letter from then town attorney David Marek to Bill Brunner, dated July 20, 2016." Stewart clarified the motion, made trustee Chelsea Bookout and seconded by Karen Budinger. Stewart asked if the intent was to authorize him to waive privilege "if in fact it is necessary or helpful in our case," but only if it is beneficial to the town. Thee board voted without discussion.

A hearing is scheduled in Delta County Court for 8 a.m. Friday, June 15.

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North Fork
Brunner, Paonia
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