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Colorado Sunshine Law for open meetings
The Colorado Sunshine Law for open meetings legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. The Colorado Sunshine Law, first passed in 1973, was finally modified to include the current open meetings laws in 1996. Statute 24-6-402 of the Colorado Code defines the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in Colorado. For more information go to the page or go to Colorado sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|Zubeck v. El Paso County Retirement Plan||1998|
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Colorado in 2010.
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that all meetings of two or more members of any state public body where any public business is discussed must be open to the public. This definition includes in person, telephone, or electronic communications. The law states that a gathering of a quorum or three or more individuals of a local body constitutes a meeting. The law also explicitly states that emailed messages discussing pending actions constitutes meetings and are subject to the law.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- The act excludes private meetings where the discussion of public business is not the central topic.
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as all branches of state and local government including all boards, commissions, etc. It also includes non-profit and private corporations who receive state funding and any bodies who have been granted decision-making authority.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- administrative staff for the state
The Colorado Sunshine Law for open meetings is ambiguous as to whether or not the law applies to the legislature. While the broad definition of public body found in the law explicitly includes the General Assembly at Colorado Statute 24-6-402(d), the constitution permits the legislature to meet in secret when the legislature feels it is appropriate.
Meeting notice must be posted in a designated public place within the boundaries of the local public body no less than twenty-four hours prior to the holding of the meeting. The designated place for posting notice is identified each year at the first regular meeting of each calendar year. Agenda information should be included when possible.
Minutes of all public meetings must be taken and open to public inspection. Executive session minutes must reflect the discussion topics of the executive session. Executive sessions, except for sessions involving material that would fall under the attorney-client privilege, must be recorded using audio or video recording methods. Records of executive sessions can be requested for an in camera review if there is probable cause that the executive session discussed topics that were not privileged to closed meetings. Records of executive sessions must be maintained for 90 days.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
The act allows for executive sessions to be called by a 2/3 vote within an open meeting to consider the following topics:
- The purchase of sale or property
- Anything subject to the attorney-client privilege exemption
- Matters that are subject to state or federal statutes requiring concealment
- Labor negotiations
- Discussions of employee dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation are open unless the employee specifically requests an executive session and is still subject to a vote by the board in question
- Security details
- Discussions of any records exempted under the Colorado Open Records Act
The following exemptions only apply to state level public bodies:
- University or hospital meetings that would jeopardize competition with other agencies
- Non-profit trade secrets discussions
- University decisions to award honorary degrees and other awards
- This exemption does not apply to elected or appointed officials
- Parole board discussions
State courts have jurisdiction to enforce the Colorado Sunshine Law for open meetings. In cases where the court finds a violation occurred, the court can award the plaintiff costs and reasonable attorney fees. If the court does not find a violation occurred, it can award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party if the court finds that the action was frivolous, vexatious, or groundless. The state determined that the court may also invalidate decisions at illegal meetings, stating "No resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, or formal action of a state or local public body shall be valid unless taken or made at a meeting that meets the requirements."
State of Colorado
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Executive Director of Natural Resources | Executive Director of Labor and Employment | Chair of Public Utilities |