The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night is scheduled to approve a settlement agreement with citizen Ted Guy, who sued the town in 2016 related to claims involving the Colorado Open Meetings Law and Colorado Open Records Act.
In it, the town agrees to pay $115,000 to the attorneys for Guy, who was the plaintiff in the civil action against former Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, the former town council and town clerk Pam Schilling.
Guy’s end of the bargain includes releasing and forever discharging “Defendants, the Town and the Town’s past and present elected and appointed officers, officials, employees, agents, servants and attorneys of and from any and all liability, claims, demands, rights, controversies, damages, compensations, costs, expenses, attorney fees, penalties, interest and causes of actions of any kind whatsoever arising out of and in any way related to Plaintiff’s claims under the Colorado Open Records Act, Colorado Open Meetings Law and all claims of Plaintiff which have been or could be asserted in the above-described lawsuit,” according to a section of the agreement.
Said Mayor Bill Kane on Sunday, “We are putting this to a merciful end. I think we’ve all learned our lesson.”
Kane said that providing better notice and detail about what is discussed in executive session will be modus operandi moving forward.
The original, 2017 ruling by Eagle County District Judge Russell Granger determined Basalt was within its rights due to the sessions involving attorney-client privilege with then town manager Mike Scanlon. But in June of this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and agreed with Guy that those secret sessions violated the open meeting requirements of the state’s Sunshine Law.
Guy said he’s glad there’s been a resolution to this yearslong issue.
In an email he wrote, “It took about four years to resolve the open meeting and open record issues. The time it took to resolve these issues is too long and too expensive. The local judge’s incorrect rulings made the journey to justice that much longer and more expensive.”
He added, “We still have the local judge ruling that allows a mayor to interfere with the town clerk on election issues and erase the evidence. According to the town charter the elected officials are supposed to communicate through the town manager rather than communicate directly to an employee. Those communications should also be public information.”
Mayor Kane said the current council “is taking serious note of the outcome of this litigation. We’re going to be doubly cautious of noticing procedures for any executive session. We’re also going to be doubly cautious, not only in our notice but what we’re talking about” during the executive sessions.
“We’re not going to talk about the Rockies’ [baseball season],” Kane added as an example of what will be verboten. He also said that the makeup of council has completely changed since the original violations, as have the town manager and town attorney.
Guy seemed pleased with the resolution, which was negotiated during council executive sessions and which he signed off on July 27. In addition to the attorneys’ fees he will also receive recordings and minutes from the requested executive sessions.
“The great news is we now have a better government that follows the laws,” he added.