Media law expert: Secret CSU chancellor meeting likely illegal

The search for Colorado State University’s first-ever chancellor has become positively Cheney-esque in its intrigue and now possible law-breaking by the Board of Governors.

Bob Moore at the Coloradoan has the goods on the selection of CSU Board of Governors Vice Chairman Joe Blake as its chancellor-finalist.

The CSU Board of Governors met for four hours in closed session Tuesday before naming its vice chairman as the sole finalist for chancellor, even though state law says boards can’t discuss their own members in executive sessions.

“It appears that the Board of Governors’ discussion behind closed doors violates the Colorado Open Meetings Law because they discussed a member of the public body, Joe Blake. The law is very clear that a public body cannot discuss a member of that public body in an executive session,” said Chris Beall, a Denver attorney who specializes in First Amendment law.

In a lengthy prepared statement, CSU’s general counsel disputed Beall’s interpretation arguing that the board’s executive session was a lawfully-sanctioned closed-door meeting “to receive legal advice and to discuss the recommendations of the search committee, which included information about several candidates.”

The hiccup appears to be that Blake’s application was also discussed in the executive session in violation of state Sunshine Laws.

Moore notes “[i]f a lawsuit is filed and a judge rules the open meetings law was violated, the Board of Governors could be forced to make public the tape recordings of any illegal executive session.”

Beall knows of which he speaks. The Colorado Press Association counsel is fresh off a successful two year legal tussle representing the Steamboat Springs Pilot & Today over an Open Meetings Law violation by the local school board. An appellate court judge ruled in March that the board improperly made a policy decision behind closed doors with no public vote or public discussion.

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