Wal-Mart talks should have been public | SummitDaily.com

Wal-Mart talks should have been public

CRIPPLE CREEK ” A judge said the Woodland Park City Council violated the state’s open meeting laws by meeting in secret to discuss a proposed Wal-Mart but concluded they had made a mistake.

“They’re called sunshine laws for a reason. Public actions by public officials are supposed to be conducted under the light of scrutiny,” District Judge Thomas Kennedy said after a hearing Tuesday for a lawsuit filed by opponents of the store seeking tapes of the Nov. 18 executive session.

Opponents of the Wal-Mart said the city did not cite a specific reason for an executive session, which under state laws allows public bodies to meet in secret to discuss matters such as contracts or personnel issues.

City Attorney Charles Norton characterized council members as inexperienced politicians who have never handled an issue of such magnitude and never realized they were breaking the law.

City Manager Mark Fitzgerald said they held the meeting without legal counsel and didn’t know how to rectify the error.

The city released tapes of the meeting on which Citizens for Responsible Growth attorney Tim Schutz said council members could be heard discussing concerns the store would go to another community.

It was unclear how the court proceedings would affect the city’s review of the Wal-Mart application, which begins Thursday.

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