BOCC admit violation of Open Meetings Law

October 17, 2012

Garfield County, oil shale

BOCC Chairman John Martin and his sidekicks Mike Samson and Tom Jankovsky circled the wagons this week in a last ditch effort to stave off an election-year disaster. Buried on Page 5 in Tuesday’s (10/16) PI was this big news:

BOCC settles oil shale meeting lawsuit
Board will pay attorney’s fees, rescind resolution

If the link above doesn’t work use this one:

Garfield commissioners settle lawsuit over disputed oil shale meeting

WCC Board Member Bob Arrington commented in an email:  “Previously Commissioners wanted no admission of wrong doing as a condition of settlement.”

Apparently that didn’t work out so well for them. Last March, Martin, Samson, and Jankovsky blatantly violated Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. This settlement looks like damage control with the election breathing down their necks. Don’t think for one minute they would have rescinded their illegal oil shale resolution without the lawsuit, or that they would have settled the lawsuit so quickly if not for the upcoming election. Martin and Samson must be worried. They should be.

WCC Director of Organizing Frank Smith sent out this email statement today (10/17):

We sure hate to sue… but sometimes there’s no other option than legal recourse.

Western Colorado Congress and its community group partner, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, took Garfield County to court and now the case is closed. The issue: Oil shale and local government meetings with industry that locked-out the public.

For the last few months, we’ve been saying Garfield County violated Colorado Open Meetings Law when they attended a secret oil shale booster meeting in Vernal, Utah. Open Meeting Laws, also known as Sunshine Laws, generally strive to ensure citizens are informed and involved in governmental decisions. This week, Garfield County admitted their wrong doing and expressed regret. A settlement was finalized on Monday, October 15, and the County will ensure their next meeting on oil shale includes extra public notice.

At the time of the Vernal meeting, BLM was accepting comment as they considered large-scale oil shale operations in the Intermountain West. The meeting with oil shale boosters aimed to coordinate a pro-oil shale strategy that sought to sway current Bureau of Land Management considerations. In fact, shortly after the questionable meeting, Garfield County returned home and immediately passed an oil shale resolution telling BLM to increase industry access to public lands. Because of our suit, the County rescinded their formal resolution and comments to BLM.

In western Colorado, we’ve heard about oil shale. It’s the unconventional energy source that receives periodic attention as a solution to our domestic energy needs. Since the 1970’s, an oil shale industry has been dependent upon government subsidy and, based upon their availability, the industry has ebbed or flowed.

WCC thinks sound public policy regarding oil shale includes deliberate consideration of available technologies, and scientific review of both environmental and public health impacts. Good policy also includes limited access to public lands and resources while experimental operations remain risky.

Click here to see the news coverage on TV!

Click here to learn more about oil shale

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