Summit County commissioner labels RRR lawsuit a nuisance
ASPEN – Attorneys representing the county governments that formed the Rural Resort Region have settled a lawsuit over an open meetings law dispute.
Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom called the claim “a nuisance lawsuit,” however, and said it won’t affect Summit County.
Aspen City Councilmember Terry Paulson, Aspen resident Mike McGarry and four other plaintiffs filed a suit claiming the Rural Resort Region violated the Sunshine Law, or the Colorado statute that dictates which gatherings of public officials constitute open meetings.
The group filed the suit following the September 2001 meeting of the Rural Resort Region (RRR) in Snowmass. The RRR comprises Eagle, Garfield, Lake, Pitkin and Summit county government representatives, as well as associate members of municipal governments from those areas. The group lobbies and plans to promote affordable housing, health care and workforce recruitment and retention in those counties.
The topic of the meeting, and what brought the plaintiffs to the door of the conference, was immigration. The plaintiffs learned, however, that the group was charging $75 to $100 to enter the meeting. The Aspenites claimed the admission fee violated the state’s open meetings law and discouraged public attendance.
The county governments agreed to a settlement last week in which they would pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees – about $11,400 – and mail a letter to each attendee of the conference explaining the group’s violation of the law. The settlement also stipulates that the county governments involved could not act on proposals offered at the summit without first conducting another public meeting to discuss it.
“I would prefer we didn’t charge admission, but we have to pay our expenses somehow,” said Lindstrom, who attended the meeting along with Commissioner Bill Wallace.
The plaintiffs also objected to what they described as a pro-
“That summit was nothing less than a Stalinist show trial,” McGarry said in a press release announcing the settlement. “They packed the house with all their like-
minded, made sure they all had their admission fees paid for by governmental, employer and foundation sources and then told us to pay up or butt out, as if we would just walk away from an invitation to a good brawl.”
The plaintiffs are all members of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform. The group supports a moratorium on immigration, opposes citizenship for aliens’ children, and hopes to see immigration laws better enforced and an end to amnesty acts for illegal immigrants – all based on a concern for Colorado, the nation and their resources – according to its Web site.
“They thought the conference was going to be some rah-rah thing to bring in more illegal aliens,” Lindstrom said. “It was more to talk about the aliens who are here already. It was a great conference.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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