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New law improves access to executive sessions

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    NMU         COLORADO         Freedom of Information         Jun 12, 2001    

New law improves access to executive sessions

  • A bill signed into law in early June requires greater disclosure and recordkeeping by officials during executive sessions.

Colorado has approved changes to the state’s open meetings law that will reform the way state and local governments use executive sessions to conduct business.

Under the new law, officials must state with specificity why they are going into closed meetings. Joan Ringel, a lobbyist for the Colorado Press Association, said prior to the changes, officials would often fail to disclose the exact need for executive sessions. Many public bodies would simply cite the language of the open meetings law without noting the underlying need for secrecy.

The new law also requires governmental bodies to tape all executive sessions and keep the recordings for 90 days so that citizens can challenge the closure. The law has provisions for a judge to review the tapes to decide whether information should be released to the public after a challenge is filed. The new law also has a provision awarding attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.

The Colorado General Assembly adopted the legislation by a near-unanimous vote. Gov. Bill Owens signed the bill into law June 5.

(H.B. 1359) CM

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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