Man denied access to clerks meeting in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Three times this year, Al Kolwicz and his colleagues have been denied access to the Colorado County Clerks Association meetings.
And for the fourth time, Kolwicz and others have been denied entrance into the clerks’ association summer conference, which is currently being held at Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. The conference began Sunday and ends Wednesday.
Kolwicz, a trustee of Colorado Voter Group, said restricting the public and media’s access to the sessions may constitute a violation of the state’s open meetings laws, which require specified government meetings to be open to public.
But Nancy Amick, president of the Colorado County Clerks Association and the Rio Blanco county clerk and recorder, said the association’s conference is just a training and education opportunity for Colorado clerks and their staffs.
“We are not a public policy-making organization,” she said of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “We are not a government organization that makes policy decisions.”
Amick said private attorneys have told the association that it is not violating Colorado’s open meetings laws by limiting access to its conferences to just clerks and their staff.
However, Kolwicz said that his group thinks that the association, at previous meetings this year, “conducted public business and developed policy on how to defeat the paper ballot in the Legislature.”
That issue came up earlier this year after Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified several voting machines across the state – including those in Garfield County.
State legislators and Gov. Bill Ritter then wanted the state’s clerk and recorders to conduct November’s election with paper ballots. The clerk and recorders preferred a mail-in ballot election and were opposed to the move, and the legislative effort to require paper balloting eventually died.
“It would have been a huge fiscal impact for all the counties to go an all-paper ballot,” said Jean Alberico, Garfield County’s clerk and recorder.
Kolwicz said his group filed a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in January of this year to gain access to the association’s meetings.
However, Kolwicz and others were told “the attorney general has no authority to enforce the Sunshine laws” and that the matter would have to be pursued in state court, Kolwicz said. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office confirmed that on Monday.
“That is kind of disturbing as well,” Kolwicz said.
Christopher Beall, an attorney for the Colorado Press Association, said in an e-mail to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that the clerk’s association is not subject to the state’s open meetings laws.
“The Colorado County Clerks Association is a membership body that does not exercise any governmental authority. Rather, it is a lobbying organization,” Beall wrote. “Moreover, because county clerks are not collegial decision-makers – there’s only one clerk in each county, as opposed to three county commissioners – the clerks are never individually subject to the (open meetings law).”
Beall said that is the reason why the Colorado Association of District Attorneys and the Colorado Association of School Superintendents are also not subject to the open meetings law.
Amick wrote a letter to Kolwicz, saying that with the passage of Senate Bill 243 this year – which established a commission to “review, research and make recommendations” for improved voter registration and elections – that “it appears there will be a number of opportunities to discuss various viewpoints and confer” on the best election practices in a public forum.