Colorado Independent, local newspapers file suit over CSU chancellor search meetings

The Colorado Independent has joined the Fort Collins-based Coloradoan and the Pueblo Chieftain newspapers in a lawsuit against the Colorado State University System Board of Governors for alleged repeated violations of Open Meetings Law during its secretive, closed-door selection of a new system chancellor.

The suit filed in Larimer County District Court Wednesday requests that a judge review audio recordings of board meetings held on April 28-29 and May 5 to determine whether violations occurred when board vice chair Joe Blake’s application for the chancellorship was discussed by fellow board members.

Colorado Open Meetings Law allows boards to go into a properly announced executive session to discuss personnel issues, such as the appointment or hiring of a state employee. However, the law prohibits closed-door meetings when discussions involve a member of a public body, like the system’s board of governors.

If a judge determines a violation has occurred, the media consortium demands that any and all recordings of the three meetings be made public.

The contentious and highly secretive chancellor selection process has been the focus of a two-week Colorado Independent probe following an initial investigative inquiry of questionable financial and management decisions by then-CSU President and Chancellor Larry Penley.

Penley subsequently resigned mid-semester under a cloud of suspicion and a $389,000 golden parachute.

The CSU System Board, led by Blake and Chairman Doug Jones, announced shortly after Penley’s resignation that the previously dual position would be split into two separate roles: a Fort Collins campus presidency and a system-wide chancellorship to over see the land grant university’s flagship northern campus, CSU-Pubelo and its global campus for online learning.

Amid weeks of rampant rumors of likely applicants, including retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and a host of recently defeated state politicians and former White House officials, CSU announced Tuesday that fellow board member Joe Blake was its one and only pick for chancellor — fueling further concerns that Open Meetings Laws could have been breached.

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