Vail stands behind closed-door meeting
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” A closed door meeting of the Vail Town Council to discuss the results of a hospital economic study was entirely legal, according to the town’s attorney.
On Tuesday, the town council held an executive session to hear the “preliminary draft results of an economic impact study.” Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire said the town council wanted to hear the results of the study in private so that they could develop a strategy for “possible future negotiations.”
That means that the council wanted to hear the economic report, which was commissioned by the town several months ago in response to concerns that the hospital is planning to move or expand downvalley, to plan for possible discussions in the future with the hospital. The hospital’s future has been a topic of concern among Vail community members, who worry that Vail Valley Medical Center’s plans to expand downvalley might harm the town’s economy.
“What happened Tuesday did comply with (state law),” Mire said. “We didn’t negotiate with anyone, but the council was getting a lot of information to develop a strategy for the future.”
The town declined to say who conducted the study or when and if the results of the study will be made public. Mayor Dick Cleveland said he would not comment on what was discussed at the meeting beyond the three-line announcement on the council’s agenda.
“What’s on the agenda is pretty clear,” he said. “(The meeting) is a way to receive information that we could use in the future to negotiate.”
However, others disagreed that the discussion needed to be done in private. Vail resident Kaye Ferry said that the town should be as transparent as possible and that the council should make it more clear what they’re discussing and why.
The notice of the executive session on the town council agenda was vague and would have been difficult for most people to understand, she said. The notice gave no indication of what study the council was discussing, what would be negotiated, or why it had to be in executive session.
“Any average citizen should be able to pick up any meeting notice and be able to know what they’re talking about,” Ferry said.
Colorado press attorney Chris Beal said that while the town may have been in the legal clear on Tuesday, the intent of the law is not to allow governments to discuss policy matters behind closed doors.
“What appears to have occurred is a deliberate attempt to stretch the law, to conduct a meeting behind closed doors when the public would have been better served had it been done in public,” Beal said.
Mire disagreed, saying that the town wasn’t trying to be vague, but that the council did not want to jeopardize any future decisions that might be made.
“They’re not so much trying to hide the ball,” he said. “They just want to make sure they get the best deal for the town.”
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.