Garfield County's Board of Commissioners (BOCC) is on the defense again after community advocates filed a lawsuit alleging a breach of Colorado's Open Meeting Law.
The case filed Monday in district court by the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress. The groups accuses the board of meeting about oil shale earlier this year in Utah without publicizing it.
"They conducted county business in secret," Leslie Robinson with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said.
The meeting, back on March 27, came after the BLM announced a scaled back plan for oil and gas leases in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
"They took 90 percent of the lands that had already been leased off the lease eligibility list," Commissioner John Martin explained.
That's when, according to emails obtained by KJCT News 8, commissioners from twelve counties in those three states came together to discuss their position on the issue.
"It was a workshop designed to help us gather information. Nothing was decided there, no resolutions were passed," Martin added.
But the meeting took place behind closed doors and was in executive session. Advocates say debating public issues in such a setting with 'industry lobbyists' is illegal.
"They conducted county business without notifying the public and that's against the Colorado Sunshine Law," Robinson said.
Depending on who you talk to, the explanation is different.
"There was ample public record on this issue," Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. "It was posted in the county courthouse and we spoke about it three times during public meetings before it even occurred."
Jankovsky goes further, suspecting the lawsuit is "politically motivated" since two of the three board members are up for re-election.
While commissioners defend their actions, they do say they remain committed to the process and will reconvene if necessary.
The groups, meanwhile, wonder what else, if anything, the board has secretly met about that has not been uncovered yet.
"If they had a closed meeting about oil shale, the question is: Are there other closed meetings that we're not aware of," Robinson posed.
County officials say they have not been served papers in this case but are aware of the groups' intentions to sue.
In addition to speaking with Commissioners Martin and Jankovsky, KJCT News 8 also reached Commissioner Mike Samson. He hung up the phone when the subject of this story was explained.