Arvada city manager Mark Deven responded to our letter this afternoon (Wednesday, April 16, 2014). You can read it below.
What is the answer? Is or should the mayor's 'State of the City' address to the Arvada Chamber of Commerce be an open, public meeting? Typical of a government out-of-touch with its own citizens: it is a public meeting, but it is not a public meeting.
"Please note that the April 18 Chamber event is posted as a public meeting ... we have posted the notice as a public meeting, please note that we believe that the April 18 Chamber of Commerce event featuring the Mayor's State of the City address does not fall under the Colorado Open Meetings Law."[emphasis added]Not surprisingly, the response contends that a 'State of the City' speech is not a "part of the policy-making process." However, as one of our readers points out:
Most "State of ..." speeches are directly related to policy-making. The typical such speech usually starts with so-called "accomplishments" and then goes on to lay out the upcoming agenda. Is not a statement of legislative -- or quasi-judicial -- objectives a major part of "the policy-making process"?Curiously, it appears that the city manager has precluded any post-speech audience comments or questions-and-answers:
As the Mayor will be presenting information and the Council is not convened as a policy making body, there will not be an opportunity for public comments.So, the Chamber has said (below) the public can attend and not pay their $15 per person ticket.
Our objective has been to keep the pressure on the Arvada municipal government to follow the Open Meetings Law -- we are watching!
Yesterday, the following e-letter was sent:
Monday, April 14, 2014
Marc Williams, Mayor
City of Arvada
8101 Ralston Road
Arvada, CO 80001
Mark Deven, Arvada City Manager
Kami Welch, President, Arvada Chamber of Commerce
Ashley Garst, Administration & Events, Arvada Chamber of Commerce
Jeffery Roberts, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition
Dear Mr. Williams:
We are writing to inform you that it is our considered judgement that the 'Annual State of the City Address' scheduled for Friday, April 18, 2014, falls under the provisions of the Colorado Open Meetings Law and, therefore, must be open to the public as provided for by the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
This gathering is presently publicized on the web site of the government of Arvada: “During the State of the City Address, Mayor Marc Williams will address current and planned projects and the policies of City Council as contained in the City's FOCUS documents.” (http://arvada.org/about-arvada/state-of-the-city-address/)
Since a “meeting” under the Law is defined as “any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business” this function clearly falls under that provision and must be declared a “public meeting” and open to the public.
Furthermore, the invitation to this event is being described as by “The City of Arvada and the Arvada Chamber of Commerce.” It is, therefore, a government sanctioned gathering and must be considered a public meeting.
It is a reasonable expectation that due to the described purpose of this address by the Mayor of Arvada that other members of the city council and other members of City governmental boards and committees will be in attendance. The law requires, therefore, that at such a meeting where a “quorum or three or more members of a local public body” are present “at which any public business is discussed” that the meeting be “open to the public at all times.”
We already know, for example, that all of the members of the board of directors of the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority have been strongly encouraged to attend this function -- a local public body covered by the Open Meetings Law.
Consequently, we are asking that this gathering be declared an open meeting and “open to the public at all times” and that it henceforth be advertised and publicized as such.
We are asking that it also be made clear to the citizens of Arvada that as an open meeting, the public will be admitted without a monetary charge.
Of course, we expect this event to be properly and legally posted as a public meeting under the provisions of the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
Arvada, CO 80003
Arvada, CO 80004
Arvada, CO 80002
Arvada, CO 80003
* * * * *
OPEN MEETINGS LAW
24-6-401. Declaration of policy.
It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.
24-6-402. Meetings - open to public - definitions.
(1) For the purposes of this section:
(a) "Local public body" means any board, committee, commission, authority, or other advisory, policy-making, rule-making, or formally constituted body of any political subdivision of the state and any public or private entity to which a political subdivision, or an official thereof, has delegated a governmental decision-making function but does not include persons on the administrative staff of the local public body.
(b) "Meeting" means any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, in person, by telephone, electronically, or by other means of communication.
(c) "Political subdivision of the state" includes, but is not limited to, any county, city, city and county, town, home rule city, home rule county, home rule city and county, school district, special district, local improvement district, special improvement district, or service district.
(2)(b) All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, 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 have received a reply from the Arvada Chamber of Commerce which you can read below.
Let's be clear, the Chamber of Commerce as a private organization can make whatever provisions it likes -- Arvada municipal government is bound by the Colorado Open Meetings Law. For Arvada government not to officially declare the Friday, April 18, so-called 'State of the City' event an open and public meeting will be to show blatant disregard for the law, and more importantly, disrespect for this city's citizens and the values of openness and honesty.
We will be waiting to see what City government does.
It has been the efforts of Arvada citizens -- once again -- that have demanded sunshine and openness from our city council.
Good morning Mr. Chandler,
I wanted to follow-up with you from the Chamber's perspective on this event. We appreciate your concerns and understand that this is an important topic for the community to have the opportunity to hear. We have evaluated our options for this event and have created a non-monetary opportunity for guests to attend at no charge and listen to the presentation (this will not include breakfast). We are still asking that anyone who plans to attend RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure that we have ample seating and room for all of our guests. We will post this option to Facebook and send out an email to our database. We certainly hope that you are able to join us!
This "State of the City" address is part of a monthly series of breakfasts hosted by the Chamber to evaluate challenges/opportunities that are impacting our community (examples include: County-Wide Update, Transportation, Education, Etc.). All of these are open to the public and it is our goal to grow these to make sure that we are providing a forum for looking at community issues that impact businesses and individuals. We appreciate your feedback and are always looking at ways to enhance our current efforts.
As I noted in my email to you last week I would like the opportunity to sit down with you upon returning from maternity leave and learn more about your perspectives and how the Chamber can work to better serve the community as a whole.
Please let me know if you have any further questions!
Kami Welch, President, Arvada Chamber of Commerce
This email is provided in response to your email of April 14 regarding your judgment that the Chamber of Commerce event of April 18 featuring the Mayor's State of the City address falls under the provisions of the Colorado Open Meetings Law and, therefore, must be open to the public as provided for by the Colorado Open Meetings Law and posted as a public meeting.
Please note that the April 18 Chamber event is posted as a public meeting. Each month our City Clerk reviews the Council's schedule of meetings that they plan to attend and posts all meetings or events where we understand that two or more council members may attend. Notices for these kinds of events are posted approximately every two weeks. City sponsored events involving council members are also posted.
While we have posted the notice as a public meeting, please note that we believe that the April 18 Chamber of Commerce event featuring the Mayor's State of the City address does not fall under the Colorado Open Meetings Law. The reason that the event does not fall under the Open Meetings Law is that the event is not part of the policy-making process. A meeting is part of the policy-making process when it is connected to the policy-making responsibilities of the public body that is holding or attending the meeting. There must be a meaningful connection between the meeting held or attended by a public body and the public body's policy-making responsibilities in order for the provisions of the Open Meetings Law to be applicable.
It is the City's position that there is no meaningful connection between the City Council's policy-making responsibilities and the Chamber of Commerce event featuring the Mayor's State of the City address. While individual council members will be attending the event, the Council will not be convened as a policy making body. Council members who attend the event will be there to listen to the Mayor's presentation as members of the community.
It is my understanding that the Chamber of Commerce will be accommodating people who would like to attend the event to hear the Mayor's presentation without participating in the breakfast. We of course support this accommodation.
As the Mayor will be presenting information and the Council is not convened as a policy making body, there will not be an opportunity for public comments. Therefore we anticipate that all members of the community will extend the common courtesy associated with these kinds of events.