Red Cliff leaders may silence themselves |

Red Cliff leaders may silence themselves

Tamara Miller

RED CLIFF – Jim Bradford believes some of his colleagues on the town’s Board of Trustees are trying to shut him up. The board is considering amending town law to forbid trustees other than the mayor from talking to the media. The board would have to give its approval before other trustees spoke to a reporter.Red Cliff already has an ordinance that designates the mayor as the spokesperson for the board, said Mayor Ramon Montoya. Fellow trustees asked Montoya if anything could be done to prohibit the rest of the board – namely, Bradford – from talking to the press about town business, he said.”It’s to prevent different board members from going to the press and misrepresenting the facts about the town’s position on things,” Montoya said. Bradford said the idea was “ridiculous”.”It’s directed 100 percent completely at me,” Bradford said. “It’s designed to get me to stop talking to the media, and to not do other things that they believe to be illegal, but are not.”Unusual moveBradford has been critical of the town’s handling of Red Cliff’s water and sewer problems. The town has been admonished by the state for both systems, which do not work properly. The town has tried to repair both systems.The board also may consider amending the ordinance to prohibit trustees from taking notes during executive sessions – which are closed to the public – and require any notes taken during those sessions be shredded before the board leaves the building. Trustees also would not be allowed to talk to the press about topics discussed during executive sessions. The board has not set a date to vote on the gag order. “It’s not something I’ve put in place,” Montoya said. “We spoke to counsel about this and many jurisdictions have similar ordinances.”Montoya said he couldn’t name other towns that have similar ordinances. In Eagle County, no other town has an ordinance that prevents a public official from speaking publicly about their town’s issues. Town Council members from Vail to Gypsum frequently speak to reporters.None of Red Cliff’s other trustees returned calls requesting comment.”Unconstitutional”It’s a violation of First Amendment rights, Bradford said. The First Amendment protects a citizen’s freedom of speech.Montoya disagreed. Board members would still be allowed to talk to the press, the public and anyone else about their opinions. “We are not looking to stifle the First Amendment rights of anyone,” he said. “We just want to make sure they are identifying that it’s their own personal opinion and not the opinion of the board.” The ordinance would also forbid trustees from discussing the town’s position on issues with state agencies and members of the public, Montoya said. However, no law can control how an elected official communicates with his or her constituents, said Tom Kelly, an attorney for the Colorado Press Association.”They can pass the ordinance but they will face liability under the Civil Rights Act in the United States,” Kelly said.Case law would seem to support that theory. Greenwood Village, near Denver, adopted an ordinance forbidding council members from talking with the public about anything discussed in executive session unless the council approved. A judge ruled it unconstitutional, Kelly said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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