‘Is this a hill you want to die on?’


The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) ended last year by demonstrating a complete lack of respect for the law and total disregard for the public’s right to know.
The commissioners chose a candidate to be the new county attorney, the second-highest-paid county employee, while in executive session, which is against the law.
It all started in November, when the commissioners held two executive sessions to interview applicants for a new county attorney.
Then, in December, The SUN came across an agenda item which stated “the County Commissioners decided to offer the position of County Attorney to Todd Weaver.”
During that meeting, then Interim Archuleta County Attorney Todd Starr appeared to make an attempt to cover for the BoCC when he contradicted that agenda language by explaining that the board never made a decision to hire Weaver. He also said the board had instructed a negotiator and the range of that negotiation.
We beg to differ that there was not a decision already made. There was obviously a prior decision because Weaver had already been offered the job and he had already signed the contract.
The executive session in question was not called for the purpose of matters that may be subject to negotiation or to instruct negotiators, which, under state law, must be specifically cited to allow for such matters to be discussed.
When Wadley was asked just when the board directed him to go into talks with Weaver, Wadley said, “I can’t remember the date, … but it was done … it’s in the minutes, it’s in the minutes somewhere.”
Wadley added some further comments about when the direction was given. “We came out of, I don’t know if it was after an executive session or it after a regular meeting, we did interview everybody in executive session and make a selection,” Wadley said.
However, such direction was not included in any board-approved minutes of meetings regarding the county attorney position.
When The SUN asked for the recording of that executive session to prove that a decision had been made illegally, our multiple requests were denied.
Later, county staff confessed that the recording of the executive session, which is required by law, does not even exist.
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeff Roberts wrote in an email to The SUN regarding the matter, “It’s the county’s duty under the open meetings law to electronically record each executive session. The point of this provision is to have an official, word-for-word accounting of a closed-door session in case any member of the public wishes to challenge its legality. Without an audio recording, a judge has no way to determine whether the private discussion was appropriate or not.”
Subsequent conversations regarding the inappropriate decision made in executive session resulted in a question being asked of The SUN by two county representatives three different times: “Is this a hill you want to die on?”
Apparently, the county doesn’t think that making illegal decisions in executive sessions is something the community cares about. The public’s right to know and our county leaders following the law should be a hill that we all want to die on. We are not willing to settle for less from our elected officials.
Do the commissioners see the public as their opponent rather than as the people they serve?
We hope this year, with a new sitting commissioner and a change in leadership, that the board will make it a top priority to follow the law.