This week a controversy occurred among Longmont City Council members concerning Sunshine Laws.
Sunshine Laws dictate how many governing members, in this
Sunshine laws are in place to keep government officials from discussing topics that should be made public.
If three council members meet in the same place, any member of the public is allowed to listen or participate in the conversation being held. If four or more council members meet, a public notice needs to be issued 24 hours in advance.
The controversy came when Jake Marsing with The Way Home, invited four council members to go a public tour of Fire House #2. The Way Home is in search of a facility to house a possible homeless services center in Longmont and wanted to view the firehouse as an option.
According to City Manager Harold Dominguez, only two council members were on site at the same time, to his knowledge.
The invitations came from The Way Home and not through the City of Longmont. According to Dominguez, he was not made aware of the invitees prior to the meeting.
The Way Home requested a tour of the firehouse through the city.
“We have requests for tours, from different groups, and so we need to be consistent on honoring those requests. This is not something that the city is working on. The city did not handle the invites and there is nothing impenitent about that location,” states Dominguez.
“It is a fire station and it will continue to be a fire station until we are actually able to have completed the construction of the replacement fire station and we haven’t even identified a location yet,” says Dominguez.
During the Longmont City Council work session on Friday, Feb 8, council discussed the topic of Sunshine Laws.
“We get invited to these things all the time,” states council member Tim Waters. “It’s our job to show up and listen and learn. For the record, for the Observer, for the Times-Call; if I broke one law this week, I broke a bunch because I showed up when I was invited to do my job, to listen to this community and advocate on behalf of what I think is absolutely consistent with the vision and the goal of this council and in the interest of the community.”
The conversation turned into a discussion about where council members stop being council members and are just residents.
Mayor Brian Bagley stated, “I think that the flashpoint was that there were people who had personal interests who hold positions of power in our community, decision-makers, looking at a public building with the city manager. It was the perfect storm.”
Council agreed that no one believed that any nefarious activity or intention was conducted in the council members’ participation in the tour of the firehouse.
“We need to be aware that if there is a potential decision, meaning using city resources… We need to be aware that that is a public issue and that is the intersection of where our private interests and our public responsibilities intersect,” stated Bagley.