Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

3 Nov 2021

Meetings & minutes inaccessible to public at Durango School District 9-R Board of Education

Posted by Adam Howell


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Meetings and minutes of the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education dating back to May of 2021 do not appear to be open to the public. The lack of public accessibility to board business is another social ill that’s caused by the response to COVID-19, but not caused by COVID-19 itself.

Meetings are inaudible, muffled, and unintelligible in videos on the Durango School District 9-R website.

Screenshot of an inaudible video recorded of a District 9-R Board of Education meeting.

A cursory glance at their live stream of the regular meetings shows board members and speakers wearing masks and their voices muffled; inaudible.

In other words, the masks that the board members and their guests are wearing make it difficult to see who is talking. As a result of the masks, it’s also difficult to read the lips of those who are talking at the meetings.

Moreover, the voices of everyone at the meeting is a low murmur due to the sounds of people’s voices bouncing off of the masks that they are wearing.

Everyone who’s speaking at the meetings sounds like they are mumbling, and I do not have a hearing impairment.

As such, the general public does not have access to the content of the meeting discussions that’s occurring with this local public body.

Consequently, someone who has a hearing disability would have a more difficult time understanding anything that the board meeting participants are saying.

Primarily, the lack of transparency at the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education Meetings makes the formation of policy at their meetings secret, which is prohibited by the Colorado Sunshine Act in C.R.S. 24-6-401.

“It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.”

Furthermore, this lack of accessibility and transparency of Board meetings appears to violate the spirit of the Colorado Sunshine Act in C.R.S. 24-6-402 (2)(B).

“(b) All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.”



Minutes from meetings missing from Durango School District 9-R Board of Education website

As of the date of this publication, the last meeting minutes of the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education that were published on their website were for the April 27, 2021 meeting.

Meeting minutes are missing from the Durango School District 9-R website from 5 months ago.

Screenshot from the June 22, 2021 agenda on the District 9-R website.

With the voices of the meeting participants being inaudible in the live streams, and the meeting minutes missing from their website as far back as 6 months ago, how are the meetings open to the public, exactly?

Additionally, the lack of promptly recording meeting minutes could possibly be in violation of the Colorado Sunshine Act in C.R.S. 24-6-402 (2)(d)(II).

(II) Minutes of any meeting of a local public body at which the adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action occurs or could occur shall be taken and promptly recorded, and such records shall be open to public inspection. The minutes of a meeting during which an executive session authorized under subsection (4) of this section is held shall reflect the topic of the discussion at the executive session.

For now, officials at the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education have failed to provide me with or adequately explain the location of meeting minutes dating back to May 11, 2021. The following people who I requested to provide me with the meeting minutes have failed to reply with the exact location of the minutes:

  1. Catina Morgan, Superintendent Executive Administrative Assistant/Board Clerk–camorgan@durangoschools.org
  2. Julie Popp, Public Information Officer for Durango School District 9-R–jpopp@durangoschools.org
  3. Everyone on the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education–schoolboard@durangoschools.org

Board Clerk Catina Morgan emailed me back with a response that appeared to be inaccurate, or she failed to provide me with the exact location of the minutes:

“Good afternoon Adam.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  I have looked at the BoardDocs and verified that all meeting minutes from May 11, 2021 – September 7, 2021 are available.  Please click on the “View Minutes” icon on the right of the screen to see completed meeting minutes from previous Board Meetings.  Meeting minutes from September 14 – October 26, 2021 will be presented to the Board for approval at the Tuesday, November 9, 2021 Work Session.  Once approved, they will be made available the following day.  We do appreciate your patience during this transition but please feel free to contact me if you have questions or needing additional assistance.
We’ve received feedback regarding the sound quality during meetings and the streaming and are exploring options in hopes of finding a prompt resolution.
Thank you,
Cat”
Morgan’s information was inaccurate, as there was no “View Minutes” icon on the right side of the screen when I searched the BoardDocs pages. Specifically, there was no such icon or attachments of minutes with agendas for meetings between May 11 – September 7, 2021 when I searched on November 3, 2021. Afterwards, I emailed her back telling her that there was no “View Minutes” icon that she mentioned in her email. Then, I tried calling her, but was unable to reach her. She did not return my phone call.

 

Adam Howell is a writer who believes in free press, accessible public meetings and the importance of the constitution. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.


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