Oct 212009
 
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

Wednesday night, student government motioned to have an internal committee evaluate a resolution that would close the doors to currently public discussions of senate and cabinet candidates — a measure a Denver attorney said, if passed, violates the Colorado Open Meeting Law.

Student officials wrote the bill, citing concern that public presence during the deliberation could potentially tarnish the appointee’s reputation.

Currently, the public is allowed to be present during Senate talks about whether appointees should be ratified. Past deliberations have included senators’ opinions of appointees, including personal conflicts and religious preferences.

The Associated Students of CSU President Dan Gearhart said that, while the organization feels the obligation to have open meetings, this portion of the meeting should be closed.

“I feel we’re in every right of the Colorado law to close the door on our meetings when it’s a personnel issue,” Gearhart said.

Senators Alex Higgens and Mark Wilson drafted the resolution to say, “All Senate sessions shall be closed during the ratification process.”

The resolution recommends that this change be added to Senate’s bylaws that already allow for the ability to close portions of the Senate meeting for “confidential discussions involving personnel or ongoing legal matters.”

Although any proceedings behind closed doors will be documented, they will be for internal use only and will not be released to the public.

“The leadership of ASCSU believes that this should have happened a long time ago,” ASCSU spokesperson Matt Strauch said.

Denver Attorney Chris Beall, who represents a number of Colorado media organizations, including the Collegian, said the Colorado Press Association takes the view that student government is subject to the law.

He won a similar case in 2004 for the University of Northern Colorado’s student media involving the school’s student government.

“It is the Press Association’s understanding that student government organizations at public universities in Colorado must follow the Open Meetings Law,” Beall said in a phone interview.

Amy Parsons, CSU’s chief legal counsel officer, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The Internal Affairs Committee, charged with review of the resolution through this week, has the ability to modify or eliminate the resolution entirely.

Higgens said the bill is not a ploy to keep secrets from the media or the student body, but it is a possible protection mechanism for the senators contributing to the debate, the appointees and ASCSU.

“This isn’t the only way this can be done,” he said.

Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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