UNITED STATES NEWS

Colorado lawmakers sue colleagues over closed-door meetings

Jul 10, 2023, 4:10 PM

DENVER (AP) — Two Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado are alleging that their colleagues repeatedly violated state open meetings law by gathering to discuss official business outside of the public’s view and directing aides to “omit or disguise” some meetings from representatives’ calendars, according to a lawsuit filed against their own caucus.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday night, also alleges that Democratic and Republican lawmakers used public records law.

Democratic Reps. Elisabeth Epps and Bob Marshall filed the lawsuit against the House of Representatives leadership and the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

Democratic House Speaker Rep. Julie McCluskie and House Republican Deputy Chief of Staff Roger Hudson, speaking for their respective caucuses accused of wrongdoing, said in separate statements that they are both committed to government transparency.

“We are still reviewing the complaint in full, and we stand by our caucus,” McCluskie said in the statement cosigned by Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Monica Duran.

While Hudson wrote that “this lawsuit is what Coloradans hate about politics,” he also affirmed that “Republicans continue to believe that the people of Colorado deserve access to their government through comprehensive open meetings and open records laws.”

The complaint states that, under Colorado law, when at least two lawmakers meet and discuss official business, it must be open to the public. If a quorum is present, the public must be noticed ahead of time, and the meeting minutes must be recorded and publicly accessible.

The lawsuit alleges that Colorado lawmakers met sometimes twice a week to discuss public business, such as pending legislation, but failed to follow any of the open meeting prescriptions outlined by state law, thereby shadowing deliberations from Colorado residents.

Similarly, the lawsuit alleges that the use of Signal was widespread and included discussions between lawmakers while they were sitting in committee or on the House floor — described in the complaint as “meetings within meetings.” Since the messages would self-destruct, they weren’t accessible for public inspection under Colorado’s public records law, the plaintiffs said.

“I don’t blame our leadership at all,” said Marshall, acknowledging that closed-door meeting practices are long-standing. “There’s not moral fault in any of this.”

But open meeting and public record laws, he continued, are necessary for transparency “so people know what’s going on and have confidence in their government. That weird stuff isn’t going on behind closed doors.”

Marshall said that, as written, the law is difficult to follow to the letter, and he hopes it will be rewritten.

Marshall and Epps said they repeatedly raised their concerns to leadership over the course of the four-month legislative session, but nothing changed. Epps boycotted caucus meetings and Marshall took to the well on the last night of the session to warn that he would take action after leadership had failed to follow through on their assurances to fix the situation.

Marshall said “it was a massive swamp they inherited” and that the assurances offered were “just basically perfume rather than draining it.”

___

Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives to court during his trial for allegedly covering up ...

Associated Press

Trump prosecutor focuses on ‘cover-up’ in closing arguments while defense attacks key witness

Donald Trump engaged in “a conspiracy and a cover-up,” a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday in the former president's hush money trial.

11 minutes ago

Associated Press

A driver with an Oregon-based medical care nonprofit is fatally shot in Ethiopia while in a convoy

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A staff member with an Oregon medical care nonprofit was killed when the team he was traveling with in a convoy was fired upon in Ethiopia, officials said Monday. Mustefa Alkisim was a Medical Teams International driver traveling in the insecure Amhara region of Ethiopia Friday when men fired at the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

European-Japanese climate research satellite launched from California aboard SpaceX rocket

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A European-Japanese climate research satellite designed to study Earth’s temperature balance was launched into orbit from California on Tuesday. The EarthCARE satellite lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:20 p.m. The satellite was successfully deployed about 10 minutes later, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Former California water official pleads guilty to conspiring to steal water from irrigation canal

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A former California water official has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water in a deal with federal prosecutors in the state’s crop-rich Central Valley. The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday that 78-year-old Dennis Falaschi, who used to head the Panoche Water District, entered the plea in federal court in Fresno. […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Prosecutors build their case at bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez with emails and texts

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors were presenting their bribery case against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez drip-by-drip on Tuesday, showing jurors a steady stream of documents, emails and phone records that they’ll explain more thoroughly later in the trial. The evidence was being shown to Manhattan federal court jurors through the testimony of an FBI […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities urge proper cooking of wild game after 6 relatives fall ill from parasite in bear meat

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reaffirmed the importance of properly cooking wild game after six people became sick from a parasite traced to undercooked bear meat that was served at a family reunion in South Dakota. The six — one in South Dakota, four in Minnesota and one […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Colorado lawmakers sue colleagues over closed-door meetings