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Pueblo city councilman: Council illegally discussed public policy behind closed doors

By Michelle San Miguel, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau/Telemundo Anchor, michelle.sanmiguel@krdo.com
Published On: Apr 16 2014 11:27:35 PM CDT

Pueblo city councilman: Council illegally discussed public policy behind closed doors

PUEBLO, Colo. -

City Councilman Chris Nicoll said discussions about how to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars took place behind closed doors.

Nicoll said the city violated the state's Sunshine Law by developing a ballot question during executive sessions.

"I ran on the jobs issue and focusing on bringing our economy back, but I also ran on transparency," Nicoll said.

Nicoll said council met at least twice in executive session to talk about drafting a ballot question. The proposed question asks voters to approve spending $25 million on a number of projects, including street maintenance. The money comes from a half-cent sales tax that's set aside for economic development. Nicoll said that discussion should not have happened.

"Executive sessions are supposed to be utilized for things like discussing [human relations] matters, or a contract that the city is going to enter into that we wouldn't want to be made public," Nicoll said. "It's really not meant for concealing public policy discussions, which is where this seems to have gone."

Nicoll wants the city to be investigated by an independent agency to make sure the city did not violate the state's open records act. 

"I don't want to seem naive about this but again we were trusting the judgement of our [legal] counsel that we were doing stuff appropriately," said Councilman Steve Nawrocki.

Councilman Chris Kaufman agrees with Nawrocki. Kaufman was the one who called for those executive sessions. He said he doesn't believe council violated state law.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 asked Nicoll why he didn't speak up if he was worried about the closed-door meetings.

"Because it was being presented as we were getting information from our legal staff and being briefed on it and really what I feel is the problem is that they were crafting policy, not getting legal advice," Nicoll said.

KRDO NewsChannel 13's partner, The Pueblo Chieftain, spoke with city attorney Dan Kogovsek. He denied any improper discussions took place in executive session. 

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