Volume 2, Number 51 - March 20, 2003
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PDR meetings must be public
The Sublette County Commission said in no uncertain terms Tuesday that the Sublette County Purchase of Development Rights Working Group must conduct its meetings in public.
Early into the meeting, Commissioner Bill Cramer responded to an editorial in the Examiner two weeks ago that complained that the group has failed to conduct its deliberations in open session and declined to provide notice of its meetings.
Tuesday Cramer said, "I thought we gave them pretty clear instructions" that the meetings need to be conducted publicly.
Upon learning that the group hasn't been doing so, Cramer said the commission's desire for the meetings to be open needs to be communicated to the group, and that Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston should contact the group and let them know that.
"I thought we gave them pretty clear instructions on that," Cramer said. "This is a public issue and it has to be discussed in public."
The group has met with its Colorado consultant and is now proposing two informational public meetings to present its proposed PDR plan for the county, indicating that much of the deliberations have already occurred prior to the group's compliance with the open-meetings policy set forth by the county commission. The meetings are slated for Monday, March 31, at 1 p.m. in the Marbleton Fire Hall and at 7 p.m. in the Pinedale Library.
The working group is slated to present its recommendations to the county commission at the commission's second meeting in April, which has been moved to April 17 in Marbleton.
The commission said it plans to hold a public meeting on the proposal at its May 20 meeting in Pinedale.
Johnston told his fellow commissioners Tuesday that he doubts if he'll know any more about PDRs after the public meeting. He said: "This is a Republic ... In a Republic, you elect people to make decisions like that. ... I'm ready to make that decision."
Johnston added if people don't like the decisions of its elected officials: "They can fire us. That's the way it works in a Republic."
Cramer said if the county commissioners don't have a public meeting: "I will vote no. I want to hear what the public says."
The PDR issue arose about three different times during the meeting, including just before the commission reconvened from lunch. Commissioners Johnston and Betty Fear had spent part of the lunch hour reviewing an informational packet prepared by Pinedale resident Sue Ziegler in opposition to the program.
Johnston reviewed Ziegler's packet, took offense at Ziegler's statements attributed as quotes from Johnston and said the packet made him angry. Ziegler was not in attendance at the meeting.
Ziegler, who has been actively following the PDR issue in the county, questioned in her letter, "Can the county commission, as they propose to do, take public monies to purchase rights, and then just hand those rights over to a private, non-profit corporation (such as a land trust)?"
Ziegler proposed Fear may have a conflict of interest in the PDR program because of family members and should excuse herself from voting on the measure. Ziegler also suggested that Johnston should tender his resignation. Ziegler requested an equal amount of money give to the PDR group be provided to a new group for it to look more objectively at the possible negative aspects of a county PDR program.
The commission took no action on Ziegler's request.
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