A judge decided Thursday to review the full recording of the CSU Board of Governor’s closed-door executive session on May 5 to determine if it violated Colorado open-meetings law.
The decision to review the full recordings comes after the BOG posted an hour-long recording of portions of the approximately four-hour May 5 session, in which references were made to now-chancellor finalist Joe Blake.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit made by the Coloradoan, the Pueblo Chieftain and the Colorado Independent accusing CSU of violating a Colorado open-meetings law.
The lawsuit was originally filed May 6, after the BOG held private discussions about one of its members, Blake, seeking the full release of the recorded session.
An editor from one of the papers said that the pursuit of the lawsuit was an effort to encourage transparency from the BOG.
“This is not a one-time occurrence with the CSU admin, there is a culture of secrecy that has flourished there,” said Bob Moore, executive editor of the Coloradoan, citing the departure last semester of former university President Larry Penley and CSU Police Chief Dexter Yarbrough.
“We have had our attorneys remind them of their obligation under state statue and it’s falling on deaf ears.”
The BOG has seven days to release the full recording of the closed-door session to Larimer County Justice Stephen Schapanski who will decide if the meeting was a violation of the Colorado Open Records Act.
“The newspapers’ only interest is to ensure that the Board does not repeat these violations in the future,” said Denver-based attorney Christopher Beall, who specializes in First Amendment Law, in an e-mail to the Collegian on Wednesday. “The mere fact that there has been a violation of the statute does not automatically mean that Mr. Blake’s selection is void.”
The tape was released in order to “remove a cloud over a good candidate,” and was not an admission of violating Colorado law, said Fred Kuhlwiln, a senior assistant attorney general representing the BOG.
Kuhlwiln, who was joined by BOG general counsel Michael Mosler, argued that the BOG had released all of the content of the meeting, which could have violated the open meetings statute.
“Everything that mentions Joe Blake’s name has been released,” Kuhlwiln said, referring to the hour-long recording posted on the BOG Web site Wednesday. Adding that if the judge were to go through the entire recording and find no unlawful discussion, it would result in a “pointless exercise to reassure the plaintiffs.”
The plaintiffs — the Coloradoan, the Pueblo Chieftain and the Colorado Independent — argued that the board violated Colorado law, which says boards can go into executive session to discuss personnel matters, unless the personnel matter involves a member of the board. Blake, the CEO of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, is also vice chairman of the BOG.
The tape omits any reference to the other candidate interviewed, identified by the Coloradoan as Dennis Brimhall, former CEO of the University of Colorado hospital in Denver. This however was a legal move under the statute.
Beall and Moore, represented the three newspapers.
Beall said that the released tape contained no reference in length of the discussions omitted, adding that the tape skips discussions such as the board’s deliberation on chancellor candidates, making it difficult to tell whether the BOG proceedings were lawful.
“The board posted a redacted recording to its Web site . we are unaware of how long the entire recording is and it’s unclear at what moment in time the tape picks up,” Beall said.
Kuhlwiln and Mosler said that they would provide the full recording to the judge within seven days, or as soon as possible.
When asked whether Mosler agreed with the decision he said, “It is what it is, and the judge has ordered it and we accept that.”
The hearing will continue at a future date, which has not yet been determined, after the full recordings have been reviewed.
Staff reporter Erin Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this link to listen to the hour-long, partial recording of the CSU System Board of Governor’s May 5 executive session.
http://csusystem.edu/chancellorsearch/exec-session-may5.asp (Link courtesy of the CSU System Board of Governor’s Web site.)