by Brian Orr
LA VETA- The La Veta Town Board met Tuesday evening, as usual, in the La Veta Community Center.
It was a fairly straightforward meeting until the board, like a tongue probing a toothache, returned to the contentious issue of alleged Sunshine Law violations.
What brought it up again was a letter to the Board from Nancy Dick, onetime Lt. Governor of Colorado and co-crafter of the original Sunshine Law in the Colorado legislature. Dick contends that the accusation of violation of the Sunshine Law, (which requires most meetings of regulatory bodies to be held in public and most of their decisions and records to be disclosed) when applied to a recent meeting of the La Veta Town Board after the meeting had been officially adjourned, would have a chilling effect on public debate.
Accused Board members contend that “nothing happened”, but the Signature newspaper has repeatedly stated the law had been violated, even going so far as to have the Colorado Press Association lawyers weigh in on the matter.
Mayor Don Keairns, who several weeks ago also said the Board members were guilty, and requested that the Town Clerk close the Community Center after the Town Board meeting, now said, “Maybe I did overreact. We’ve all sat around afterwards chatting, and that’s appropriate, but to continue talking business for an hour afterwards, that’s inappropriate. We just have to be more careful, all of us.”
Trustee Laurie Erwin came to Mayor Keairns’ defense, saying “Don may not have handled it properly, but we need to back up our mayor, and maybe we need to be a little more careful. We need to get past this and work together as a board.”
The audience however, wasn’t ready to get past it, and had some pointed questions, particularly for the representatives of the Signature newspaper, Renee Rinehart and Cathy Mullens. One audience member asked point-blank, “How can the newspaper say this if it’s not true?” Mullens stood up and she said she was a lawyer, and said the newspaper didn’t write opinions; “we attempt to write facts,” and that the paper fact checked what it wrote. Mullens then began taking the audience back through the history of public meetings, back to the Star Chamber trials and the need for light, when audience members began to interrupt. In the confusion that ensured, Mayor Keairns said loudly, “Lets…let’s just move on.”
In a less contentious part of the evening, the director of the La Veta School of the Arts, Peggy Zehring, asked the Board to do something about the trash bins that the new owner Kurt Reuss of the La Veta Inn was putting in front of a mural that Zehring’s group had painted years ago. Zehring contends that Reuss wouldn’t even talk with her about the matter and the trash bins were now in a public right-of-way.
Keairns told Zehring that he had spoken with Alys Romer, the new chef at the La Veta Inn, and she was amenable to moving the cans back to their original position outside the kitchen door. Keairns said he would now speak with Reuss about the matter, and that perhaps Zehring might want to tread softly, rather than antagonizing Reuss into going after the mural (on the wall of his building) with a can of paint.
The Board requested more information including a map, for a variance request on a deck that was built without a permit.
Finally, the Board requested more information from Doreen Bauman of the Historic preservation Committee about her efforts to create a La Veta Downtown Heritage Team, which will work toward improving and revitalizing the historic downtown section of La Veta.