2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

City Council chatty behind closed doors

Published: March 25, 2014, 4:23 pm, by Monica Mendoza

Colorado Springs City Council sure has a lot to discuss behind closed doors.

It met in a closed meeting Monday for two hours and 26 minutes. The council discussed four topics — one of which was not listed on the published agenda. They talked about “legal advice and negotiation consultation with the city attorney regarding a franchise matter; legal advice and negotiation consultation with the city attorney regarding an insurance matter; and legal advice negotiation consultation with the city attorney regarding a bankruptcy matter.” The council also discussed the contract for the Colorado Springs Utilities CEO that was not listed on the agenda.

When the council opened the doors to the City Hall chambers at 3:30 p.m., council member Helen Collins — who voted against going into a closed meeting — said there were portions of the closed meeting that could have been discussed in the open. However, she did not elaborate.

Council member Andy Pico said he believed the topics discussed behind closed doors met the threshold for a closed meeting. By law, council can go into a closed meeting to discuss transfer of property, attorney legal advice, security arrangements, development strategies for negotiations, personnel matters and documents protected by the mandatory non-disclosure provisions of the Open Records Act. Going into a closed meeting requires a two-thirds vote, and the council cannot vote behind closed doors.

The Monday closed-door meeting follows a more than two hour closed meeting last week (March 19) when council met as the Colorado Springs Utilities Board.

Read more on City Council and its closed meetings. 

In July, council member Jan Martin said she was uncomfortable with the amount of council’s closed meetings. Of 22 informal and formal council meetings from January to July, the council had met behind closed doors 11 times.  In July, a majority of the City Council joined her in bucking the city attorney’s recommendation to retreat behind closed doors to talk about a Memorial related lawsuit. Instead they talked about a potential lawsuit in public. 

It seemed then, that the City Council was going to be advocates for less closed meetings.