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Home / Articles / News / News /  Boulder County election workers spar over open meetings
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Thursday, November 15,2012

Boulder County election workers spar over open meetings

By Jefferson Dodge
Photo by Jefferson Dodge
Canvass board members Mary Eberle, Daniel Martin, Russ Boehm and Jim Rennert

In what election integrity activists say is yet another example of transparency problems at the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, a top election official told a canvass board member this week that the group’s meetings are not open to the public.

Republican Daniel Martin, who ran unsuccessfully against Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall in the 2010 election, is one of four rogue members of the canvass board, which is charged with certifying the results of the Nov. 6 election. The four — two Republicans and two American Constitution Party (ACP) members — hold the majority over Hall and the two Democrats thanks to the votes secured by gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo two years ago, which were enough to secure major-party status for the ACP. The four swore themselves in when they started meeting weeks before the election and have been vocal critics of what they say is a lack of openness and oversight in Hall’s election procedures. Hall refused to recognize their status as the canvass board until after the election.

The full seven members met for the first time on Nov. 10, and according to ACP appointee Mary Eberle, the rogue members phrased their formal swearing in by Hall as a “reaffirmation” of their charge. Eberle described the meeting as “tense;” Martin described it as “détente.”

Two days after the meeting, Martin asked Eberle via email to “continue to send me and the others notices of upcoming Canvass Board Meetings, which are all open to the public, so I can post them on the public Canvass Board Website.”

(The four rogue members have taken great pains to act as a public body, recording their sessions, inviting the media and following Robert’s Rules of Order.)

But Molly Tayer, deputy clerk and elections coordinator, who was copied on Martin’s message, replied via email the same day by saying, “The Canvass Board is an appointed committee and the meetings are not public. Certified watchers may attend, as provided for in Rule 8.6.5.”

Martin replied with his arguments, backed by state statute, for why canvass board meetings should be considered open.

And in response to a BW inquiry about the canvass board’s activities this week, Hall spokesperson Brad Turner supplied a schedule of the board’s meetings and invited a reporter to attend.

Tayer told BW that reporters are welcome to attend the meetings as “media observers,” but the Sunshine Law and other statutes cited by Martin do not require the meetings to be open to the general public, because there is only one public official (Hall) present, and there is no policy-making or decision-making done. She describes the canvass board as a “working committee,” a reviewing body, and she adds that members of the public who wish to attend can become certified watchers.

But Eberle says the county officials should err on the side of transparency.

“It’s better to be an open, communicating public body than do things behind closed doors,” she says.

Martin added, “When you shine the flashlight under the sink, all the bugs scurry.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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