Colo. student government board submits to Open Meetings Law

COLORADO — The Student Representative Council at the University of Northern Colorado has agreed to open its meetings to the public from now on under settlement terms of a lawsuit filed by editors of the school’s student newspaper.

Tension between the Student Representative Council, the university’s student government, and the Mirror began in September 2003, when the newspaper’s editors said the council violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law on three occasions by prohibiting public access to their meetings.

Mirror Editor in Chief Heath Urie, Managing Editor Chris Marchesco and former Editor in Chief Jessica Perciante filed a lawsuit against the council in April 2004, asking a Colorado District Court to nullify the three meetings that violated the open meetings law. The lawsuit was settled on Sept. 10.

The council agreed that as a state-operated body they are subject to the state open-meetings law. From now on, members of the student government will undergo annual open-meetings training and will tape record all sessions, except for executive sessions. The council will also pay the Mirror’s legal fees.

Urie, now a senior at the university, said he is satisfied with the decision.

“I think the students are the ones who really benefited from it,” he said. “Of course we want to hold our student government accountable for ourselves, but our bigger and broader job is to hold them accountable for the students.”

A separate suit filed by Mirror editors against the council and the university’s board of trustees alleges that the council cut the newspaper’s funding by 40 percent in response to articles that criticized the council’s policies. That case is expected to be settled by Oct. 10, according to Mirror general manager and adviser Paula Cobbler.

See Previous Coverage:
Colo. student paper sues student government over closed meetings News Flash, 5/5/2004