Publications

Contact Us

Defendants answer open meetings charges

Staff Report
WALSENBURG- Last August, Navajo Ranch resident Carla Dolce filed suit against the Board of Directors of Navajo Western Water District and its president Gary Baldwin (together referred to as “NWWD”) alleging violations of the Colorado Open Meetings Law (“Sunshine Law”) and the Colorado Open Records Act.
On September 20, NWWD answered the suit admitting “generally” to numerous violations of the Sunshine Law. This includes violating the Sunshine Law on at least six occasions from December 2009 through June 2011 by conducting closed-door meetings illegally called as “executive sessions.”
The defendant’s answer in the ‘Factual Allegations’ segment of their answer document read in part: “Defendants generally admit to unintentional violations of the Colorado Open Meeting Law. Defendants have corrected their processes and procedures and have become compliant with the COML. Specifically, but not exclusively, any minutes taken of any inappropriately called executive sessions have been posted on the NWWD website, any actions taken by the Board in violation of the COML have been voided. Additionally, Defendants have implemented a script of procedures to follow in order to comply with the COML and the Board has been following the same.”
In the following section of their answer, the District said they generally deny the allegations related to violations of the Colorado Open Records Act, stating, “All public records previously requested by Plaintiff have been posted to the District’s website for public inspection and printing”.
The lawsuit also includes allegations the District did not give the public proper notice of meetings, of not properly recording discussions at closed-door meetings and engaging in discussions and taking action not allowed under the Sunshine law at closed-door meetings.
In its answer to Dolce’s complaint, NWWD’s board claims they “have corrected their processes and procedures and have become compliant with [the Sunshine Law].”
In the that section of their answer, the board said they generally deny the allegations related to violations of the Colorado Open Records Act, stating, “All public records previously requested by Plaintiff have been posted to the District’s website for public inspection and printing”.
NWWD denied violating the Open Records Act claiming they posted minutes to all the meetings in question on their website along with NWWD’s Service Plan, which were among the documents requested by Dolce under the Open Records Act.
Since the filing of Dolce’s complaint, minutes of some NWWD board meetings and other documents are now available on NWWD’s website, http://nwwd.us.
In the answer document filed with the court, under the heading ‘Affirmative Defenses’, the Defendants allege the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim or cause of action upon which relief can be granted; they allege the remedies sought by the Plaintiff are not available under the COML and that the Plaintiff’s claims are barred or limited by the defenses available under the open meetings law and open records act.
The Defendants alleged in their answer, the Plaintiff’s claims are barred or limited as all actions by the Defendant’s are subject to legislative and quasi-judicial absolute or qualified privileges, and that the Defendants at all times acted in good faith and upon the advice of counsel.
The district is represented by Gordon L. Vaughn and Jessica Kyle Muzzio and their answer document was filed on September 20, 2011.