by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Former Navajo Ranch resident Carla Dolce prevailed in her open meetings and open records lawsuit against the Navajo Western Water District and its board president Gary Baldwin when the parties agreed to entry of judgement against NWWD.
The judgment entered recently by Third Judicial District Judge Claude Appel enjoins NWWD from violating Colorado Open Meetings law by improperly convening and conducting closed door meetings known as executive sessions. The judgment also awards Dolce $3,216.36 in costs and attorney’s fees.
In an email to the Huerfano World Journal last week Dolce said, “I sued NWWD last August for violating both the Colorado Open Meetings Law (COML) and the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). NWWD remedied their failure to comply with my request for documents under CORA by posting the documents I requested on their web site. You now have access to minutes, agendas and financial reports on the NWWD website: www.nwwd.us.”
Dolce also said, “NWWD admitted violating the Open Meetings Law and entered into a Stipulation agreeing to entry of judgment against NWWD. The Judgment enjoins NWWD from violating the Open Meeting Law by conducting illegally closed meetings that they improperly called “executive sessions.” The Judgment also requires the Board of NWWD to attend training sessions in how to comply with both the CORA and the COML. These training sessions must be open meetings for which they give the public notice and an opportunity to attend — thus, anyone can attend these training sessions and learn more about the CORA and the COML. Finally, NWWD must pay her costs and attorney’s fees for prosecuting the lawsuit against them. “I kept costs and attorneys fees as low as possible by doing much of the legal work myself since I didn’t want to burden the residents of NR with this cost,” Dolce said.
Regarding the training sessions for the board the stipulated judgment requires the board to,
• (a) All then- current members of the Board of Directors must attend a training session within two months of the judgment on the subject of the Board’s obligations under the COML and the CORA. These training sessions must be attended by at least a quorum of the Board.
• (b) Attend a training session within four months of the entry into office for all newly elected officers and members of the Board of Directors on the subject of the Board’s obligations under the COML and the CORA.
• (c) The training session shall be conducted by an attorney or a retired attorney with expertise in the COML and the CORA. All training sessions will be open to the public and will be subject to the COML’s public notice requirements.
• (d) Proof of attendance must be provided for any training conducted.
The judgment also said the Court shall retain jurisdiction over this action, and reserve the power to enter additional orders to ensure compliance for a period of three years. Defendants acknowledge that failure to comply with this Stipulation or the Order may be punished as contempt”.
Dolce has since relocated from Huerfano County to Virginia.