What’s Snowmass Town Council talking about in executive session?
State law requires specificity, but town attorney says it’s a ‘fine line’
When Snowmass Village Town Council meets behind closed doors in executive session, the town is supposed to be as specific as it can about the subject of those meetings.
The Colorado Revised Statute requires that the town identify “the particular matter to be discussed in as much detail as possible without compromising the purpose for which the executive session is authorized.”
But of the four executive sessions that the council has convened so far this year — on March 7, March 14, April 4 and May 16 — just the March 14 agenda included a description that went into much detail beyond the scope of “legal advice” or “negotiations.” That mid-March meeting was to get legal advice on the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, the agenda said.
There wasn’t any further detail mentioned by anyone in person during the public portion of the March 7, April 4 and May 16 meetings.
Agendas for all four sessions included “conferences with an attorney for the purposes of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions” as one reason for the closed-door meeting but only the March 14 agenda specified what those questions were about. (In that case, it was about the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.)
Session agendas for the March 7 and May 16 meetings also mentioned “determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiations, developing strategy for negotiations, instructing negotiators.”
So what was council talking about, anyway?
According to an email from Town Attorney John Dresser, the legal advice was on “three unrelated matters” that ranged from town housing regulations (March 7) to “existing contractual lease terms regarding compliance, breach, and remedies” (April 4) to “defense(s) to asserted claims” (May 16).
As of 3:20 p.m. Tuesday Dresser had not responded to May 25 email requests for clarification on what lease he was referencing for the April 4 meeting description and what he meant by “asserted claims” in reference to the May 16 meeting.
A negotiation-related discussion March 7 was about “instructing negotiators on compliance and enforcement” and one May 16 was about “developing strategy for negotiations and instructing negotiators.”
Dresser wrote that disclosing information on an agenda can get tricky because of the second part of that state law — the part that says “without compromising the purpose for which the executive session is authorized.”
The state statute is a “fine line” he wrote, “where in certain circumstances a single word in the notice can compromise the purpose for which an executive session is authorized.”
“It is not always an easy decision on what will or will not compromise the purpose,” Dresser wrote.
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