Colorado House Bill 1087 changes the Open Meetings Act regarding where local government meeting agendas are posted. The law took effect Aug. 2.
The additional language added to Colorado Revised Statutes 24-6-402 (2)(c)(II), states the General Assembly’s intent is that local governments transition from physical posting places to posting meeting notices on a website or social media where the entity has a presence.
The law applies to counties, municipalities, school districts and special districts, such as fire protection and ambulance districts.
One physical location must still be designated as an alternative posting site in emergency or exigent circumstances, such as a power outage or interrupted internet service.
The bill states that at its discretion, a local government may also post meeting notices and agendas by any other means, including in a designated public place, but it is not required.
The bill recognizes several factors could affect local governments’ ability to use a website immediately.
Factors listed included lack of availability of broadband and/or cellular service in the area, as well as lack of infrastructure or staffing.
The bill states that the General Assembly encourages local governments without a website to take advantage of free resources to create one.
Assistance with content management of a website can be obtained from the state internet portal authority or statewide organizations that represent local governments.
Other requirements include specific agenda information, if available; posting on the website at least 24 hours before the meeting; accessing the meeting notices and agendas must be free of charge; and meetings must be searchable by several categories such as type, date, time, agenda items and any other category deemed appropriate by the local government.
The notices may be linked to any other social media accounts where the local government has a presence.
Once a local government has a website for posting meeting notices, the address of the site must be sent to Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Another addition states the General Assembly will “closely monitor the transition to providing notices online over the next two years.”
If significant progress has not been made by then, the intent of the General Assembly is to pass legislation mandating meeting notices be posted on a website.
Park County has been using both its website and physical places to post meetings and agendas for many years.
By law, meeting notice locations had to be designated at the first meeting of each year.
Park County’s designated place has been the commissioners’ bulletin board at the county building on Main Street in Fairplay.
To comply with the new law, the commissioners adopted a resolution Sept. 12, designating the county website, www.parkco.us, as the official posting place for all county meetings.
The designated physical location for posting, if the website isn’t functioning for any reason, is the county building at 856 Castello Street in Fairplay.
If documents for agenda items are available, they are linked to the agenda under each item.
In addition to posting agendas on the website and the commissioners’ bulletin board, Park County also posts agendas at the clerk’s offices in Bailey and Fairplay.
Agendas are also published each week in The Flume.
A total of five locations being used for meeting notices are now reduced to two – the county website, and The Flume.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said the cost of putting the agendas in the newspaper was small and wouldn’t hurt the paper’s bottom line.
The County is not charged for the printing of the commissioners’ agenda in The Flume.
He said the main issue with putting agendas in the newspaper was a timing issue. The newspaper is a weekly that is published on Thursday.
With work sessions and meetings on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the agenda needed to be sent a week and a half before a commissioners’ meeting in order to be seen before the meeting is held.
Elsner said the agendas are rarely finalized that far in advance, so usually the ones in the newspaper are outdated.
County Attorney Erin Smith said having the agendas in the newspaper was never required by law, but was done as a courtesy.
Commissioner Mike Brazell asked if the state legislature had passed a bill allowing legal notices to be posted on the county website instead of in a newspaper.
Elsner said the General Assembly had passed a bill changing the posting place for legal notices, but the governor had vetoed the bill.
The Open Meetings Act, also called the Sunshine Law, is found in Colorado Revised Statutes Article 24, and in Article 32 for Special Districts.
Bills passed in the 2019 legislative session have not yet been incorporated into the online version of CRS found at leg.colorado.gov/colorado-revised-statutes.
All bills introduced in the legislature during 2019 and the status of the bills are online at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills.
Two residents spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. But both spoke softly and their comments were not picked up by the county’s recording system.
Vouchers were approved in the amount of $140,901.
The largest amount, $68,233, was spent from the general fund. Of that, $36,741 was for rental of the district attorneys’ offices in the 11th Judicial District.
The next largest amount, $39,804, was spent from the sales tax fund, mostly on monitoring contaminants at and nearby the old landfill near Fairplay.
The Public Works spent $23,398. The remaining amount was spent by three funds and ranged between $220 and $5,500.