By the Evergreen Park and Rec District Board
This article is written in response to Greg Romberg’s opinion piece “Hey EPRD: Let the sunshine in” (Canyon Courier, Oct. 20). In light of the fact that Mr. Romberg neither attended the EPRD’s Sept. 28 regular meeting nor contacted the board prior to that meeting to determine the facts before writing his “opinion” piece, the board is writing to correct the misinformation in that piece.
Mr. Romberg goes to great lengths to paint a picture of a board that routinely demonstrates its “contempt” for the public process by closing the door at every opportunity. Nothing could be further from the reality. Public involvement is so important that the board has prioritized it as the first item on the agenda at every regular and special meeting, in addition to welcoming comment throughout the meetings on each agenda item. In fact, the policy that Mr. Romberg identifies was on the posted agenda for the Sept. 28 regular meeting and, while it was on the “consent agenda,” it was open to public comment at that time. There were a few comments, following which the board formally and legally approved the policy, as described below.
The single-sentence statement of the Sunshine Law, as Mr. Romberg iterates, is perfect in concept. However, practice of the concept is not as simple as it may seem. Thus, the EPRD Board of Directors has adopted bylaws, written by the district’s attorney, and discussed and adopted in a public meeting. These bylaws enable the board to take action when and if needed. One of the bylaws states:
“Emergency meetings may be called by the Chair or any two (2) Board members in the event of an emergency that requires the immediate action of the Board in order to protect the District’s … personnel … and electors of the District, without notice if notice is not practicable. At such emergency meeting, any action within the power of the Board that is necessary … may be taken; provided, however, that any action taken at an emergency meeting shall be effective only until the first to occur of (a) the next regular meeting, or (b) the next special meeting of the Board at which the emergency issue is on the public notice of the meeting. At such subsequent meeting, the Board may ratify any emergency action taken. If any emergency action taken is not ratified, then it shall be deemed rescinded as of the date of such subsequent meeting.”
There is a recent Colorado Court of Appeals case (Lewis vs. Town of Nederland, 934 P.2d 848 - Colo. App. 1996) that addresses emergency meetings, and which serves as the basis for the emergency meeting section of EPRD’s bylaws. This case specifically describes that the Open Meetings Law is silent with respect to its requirements for an emergency situation, unlike similar statutes in other jurisdictions. However, a flexible standard has been applied to the requirement of notice, depending on the circumstances. Finally, the case quotes Webster in defining an “emergency” as “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.”
When the emergency meeting held on Sept. 23, 2010, was called, it was called solely due to the board’s concern with protecting EPRD personnel so they could best serve those who use our facilities. On Sept. 22, the board had been informed about a team interview situation that we thought would interfere with staff operations and demanded a swift decision, a situation that every director considered to be an “unforeseen combination of circumstances.” We called the emergency meeting according to our bylaws, and under advice of the district’s attorney. In fact, the attorney was present at the meeting by way of conference call. Because the board defined the situation as an emergency, the usual notice of the meeting was not practicable. Moreover, the policy established would only have been in effect until the Sept. 28 meeting, had it not been ratified by the board in accordance with the district bylaws. The board ratified it so that we can continue to safeguard staff and guests. To ratify means to “formally approve,” not as Mr. Romberg insinuates, to “rubber stamp.” The board’s purpose is not a difficult concept to grasp: the idea of providing stewardship for the district staff and citizens, all within the laws and standards that govern special districts. And lest anyone think that the EPRD board calls emergency meetings on a whim, this is the first one in 42 years of operation. Further, Mr. Romberg’s reference to alleged past violations of the Open Meetings Law occurred years ago and not under the watch of the current board.
The EPRD board consists of two park and recreation professionals, a former chief executive and attorney, a businessman, and a real estate broker. We all serve as volunteers on this board, and are motivated to serve by a dedication to our community. This past summer the board attended a full-day workshop provided by a special districts consultant at which the Open Records Act was discussed extensively, among myriad other topics. There was no doubt in any of our minds, nor in the mind of our attorney, that the board’s procedures over the past months have been proper and necessary.
Many citizens attend the EPRD board meetings. We continue to encourage community members to join us at the board’s regular and special meetings. Notices of these meetings are posted at the two recreation centers and the library. Information about board agendas can be viewed on the EPRD website: www.evergreenrecreation
This Community Voices piece was submitted by the board of directors of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District.