OURVOICE – Elections Matter

Colorado laws concerning open meetings

TITLE 24 – ARTICLE 6 – Colorado Sunshine Law 24-6-402. Meetings – open to public – definitions

(2) (a) All meetings of two or more members of any state public body at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.

We heard about the communications between the two current trustees, Jeff Hindman, Brian Laak, and the two trustee-elects, Maureen Dower and Tim Hardy, last Friday afternoon and became concerned because Pete Tomassi was told on the phone by Laak that the four (Dower, Hardy, Laak and Hindman) were going to nominate and select Paul Alaback to fill the empty trustee seat, and they wanted Tomassi to vote with them so it would be a unanimous vote. Tomassi stated, “I was flanked,” and was understandably upset when he called the Surveyor to let us know what was going on. Who can blame him? Government is not supposed to be run in the backroom, it is supposed to be open and transparent.

To guard against such backroom, underhanded, and secret dealings, the State of Colorado has instituted the Sunshine Law, quoted to make tactics such as those outlined above subject to scrutiny by the public and subject to review by authorities in extreme cases. Justice Louis Brandies stated, “Sunshine is said to be the best disinfectant …”

Candidates for elections all say they want transparency. What these four people are planning is not transparent.

Keep in mind that Alaback’s past behavior indicates he may have the same ethics challenges these four folks have about making decisions in the backroom. On Aug. 14, 2014, the Surveyor wrote an article titled, “Discussion via email possibly violated state Sunshine Law.” The email in question, obtained by the Surveyor through a Colorado Open Records Act request, was sent from Trustee Paul Alaback on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, which was addressed to the other six trustees and Town Administrator Mike Hart, which under the state’s Sunshine Law technically constitutes a public meeting.

In this most recent incident it’s clear Alaback had been contacted about the nomination beforehand, as evidenced by his email response to the Surveyor regarding a voice mail message left for him on Friday April 6. We simply stated we would like to speak with him and left our phone number.

Here is his response, dated Saturday, April 7, 2018, at 9:52 a.m.:

“Becky,

I see you called while I was out yesterday.  I am going to be in and out of town over the next 10 days so instead of playing phone tag, I thought email would like address the reason you are calling, which I assume relates to the vacant trustee seat.

Obviously filling the vacated seat is a matter for the Board to resolve within the applicable laws and policies of the Town of Berthoud.  If I am nominated and then appointed by the new Board, I am willing to serve in this short two year term.

Please feel free to email me if you have questions you would like me to answer and I will hopefully be able to get back to you within a day or so.

Best regards and have a nice weekend,

Paul

Paul Alaback

705 7th St.

Berthoud, CO 80513

palaback@gmail.com

Instead of backroom tactics, the new board should follow precedence and either select the next highest vote getter, Kevin Pischke, or allow citizens to file applications for the vacant seat, have the board review the applications and select the best candidate. Because of what has already transpired who would be surprised if Paul Alaback turned in an application and was selected? Perhaps current trustees Jenn Baker, Kelli Dunkelberger or even Mayor Steve Mulvihill would apply for the empty position which would be extremely helpful to staff and the community because of their current understanding and up-to-date knowledge of issues of importance to the town.

It is the Surveyor’s opinion Pischke would not vote the way some of the current members would like, so they are looking for an alternative. Alaback has expressed his support of Hardy, Laak and Hindman, clearly illustrating they are like-minded. It’s simply politics of the worst kind.

What can the citizens do? Contact Hindman at jhindman@berthoud.org or 303-819-7199, and Brian Laak at blaak@berthoud.org or 970-978-6779, and let them know you don’t approve of backroom politics, and show up at the board meeting on April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at town hall.

Elections matter, citizens matter – and unless the citizens let the elected officials know how they feel about issues, backroom politics will be alive and well in Berthoud.

Yes, elections matter, and the efforts of two current board members, as well as two newly-elected members, to subvert the outcome of the April 3 election should not go unchallenged.

 

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