Scott Wedel: Public deserves to know
Any remaining doubt that the decision to terminate City Manager Deb Hinsvark was made during Tuesday’s executive session was removed by City Council’s discussion on the separation agreement in Friday’s meeting.
Several city council members stated their disappointment that Hinsvark was being terminated, but did not state that she should remain. The key phrase that was never stated but was frequently implied was “because that decision has already been made.” And that decision was made in secret during Tuesday’s executive session.
Incredibly, a highly controversial ongoing issue is claimed to have not been decided in executive session and yet needed no discussion before being accepted in the subsequent public meeting.
The city attorney’s response to Steamboat Today’s letter about apparent violations of Colorado law regarding executive sessions attempts to slice a distinction so fine that it becomes transparent. The city attorney and City Council claim they set a direction for negotiations on a separation agreement without having made a decision to terminate the city manager.
That is similar to claiming to have set sail in the direction for Hawaii without having decided to sail to Hawaii. It is not plausible to claim a major change is merely a direction modification without first being a decision to change course.
Whether the City Council violated or followed Colorado’s Open Meetings Law by making a decision or giving a direction for negotiations is a question for lawyers to be answered by judges. But in the court of public opinion, which relies on the everyday meaning of words such as decision, there is no doubt that the decision was made in executive session with no public debate.
If the City Council wishes to regain some public trust and honor their promises of transparency, they will instruct the city attorney to publicly release the portion of the executive session in which the decision to terminate, oops, direction to agree to separate from, the city manager was considered.
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