Breckenridge sets new protocol for executive sessions following illegal session
BRECKENRIDGE — Breckenridge Town Council discussed the details of the town’s illegal executive session at last Tuesday’s work session Nov. 24. The town determined that it would follow a legal precedent around executive sessions going forward, which requires the town to publicly determine if they will negotiate on a proposal before entering an executive session to privately instruct negotiators.
Town Attorney Tim Berry gave an explanation of the session, which was held after a presentation from Breckenridge Grand Vacations CEO and co-owner Mike Dudick. The council went into the executive session stating that the session, as it pertained to the proposal, was for purposes of determining how the town might negotiate. After the session, Mayor Eric Mamula announced that the council had decided not to move forward with Breckenridge Grand Vacation’s proposal.
The Summit Daily News requested the recording of the session, which was provided by the town, and released the recording in an article.
It was found that the session was held illegally as the council adopted a position and conducted voting in secret, which are not allowed per Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. The Summit Daily News provided the town with a court precedent from Larimer County. The precedent rules that any preliminary discussions that the town has for deciding whether or not they will negotiate with a party must be done publicly.
Berry said he reviewed the precedent but noted that the decision is not technically binding on the town because the decision was made at the trial court level and not at the appellate court level. However, he said that the court’s decision is reasonable and that until there is an appellate court decision on this issue, the town should follow the decision.
“I recommend that going forward, the Town Council follow the Larimer County decision and that any council discussion about whether to enter into negotiations on a matter such as that proposed by Mr. Dudick be conducted as part of the council’s public meeting and not in an executive session,” Berry said.
Mamula said that Berry’s recommendation to follow the court decision would be an issue, as council members don’t know what each other are thinking prior to discussing negotiations in an executive session. He said the council needs to talk through a proposal privately to make sure everyone understands what a developer is asking.
“The only way to really talk about this stuff then is to put the cards on the table, which will be in public, which will then affect our ability to negotiate with the developer,” Mamula said. “So, it really to a certain extent, I think, hamstrings our ability and honestly will cool my desire to have any kind of negotiation with a developer going forward that isn’t something … that I know everyone on the council wants.”
Berry said he believes the public deserves to hear preliminary discussion and is “entitled to see most” of what the council does.
“The threshold question of whether you want to negotiate or not needs to be made in public,” Berry said. “Once that decision is made, then you have something to instruct negotiators about or to develop strategies for negotiation.”
Berry said that this threshold question has to be solved before the council can properly go into the executive session to instruct negotiators.
He said that if the council finds a project less ideal during the course of the executive session, the council wouldn’t make the final decision to pass on it in the session, but would come out of executive session and talk publicly. If the council publicly decides that they don’t want to negotiate, this needs to be explained to the public, Berry said.
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