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Colorado City Officials Debate Voting In Secret

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Officials around Colorado are debating a new court ruling allowing them to hold votes behind closed doors.

The Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the Fort Morgan City Council last week and said there’s nothing in Colorado’s open-meetings law that prohibits secret voting.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports (http://bit.ly/ocxpPp ) that the town board in Oak Creek has used secret ballots for at least 30 years to pick members of public boards but is considering ending the practice.

Mayor Nikki Knoebel is torn.

“In a small town like this I don’t want to hurt feelings after votes, but on the other hand it’s good to open up the process to the constituents we’re here to serve,” she said.

The Pilot & Today raised concerns about a secret vote to fill one board vacancy after the vote ended in a tie, forcing the board to table the issue. Last month the board chose to make the votes public and picked an appointee to fill the opening.

In Trinidad, most officials disagree with the court’s decision. Mayor Jennifer Garduno told the Trinidad Chronicle-News (http://bit.ly/qDijUt) there are situations where secret balloting would be preferable but she couldn’t provide an example. However, Trinidad School District 1 board president Linda Vigil that secret voting would create mistrust among the staff as well as the community.

Some state lawmakers have said they were shocked by the court’s ruling and could draft legislation to ban secret balloting if the decision is upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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