EDITORIAL: Dubious calls in Jurinsky censure debacle demand release of Aurora secret meeting tapes

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Aurora City Council during its March 28, 2022 meeting at city hall

The secrecy, scheming and political exploits among Aurora City Council members involved in a sordid effort to undermine a censure charge against Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky have gone too far.

Either the city attorney or the city council members themselves need to come clean on a growing list of dubious and illegal stunts, or the state’s attorney general needs to step in on behalf of city residents and taxpayers.

The debacle surrounding Jurinsky started in earnest with her Jan. 27 appearance on a local talk radio show.

Jurinsky spent considerable on-air time disparaging changes in Aurora’s beleaguered police department, which has entered into a consent decree with the state’s attorney general to make numerous reforms. The mandates came after a long investigation revealing patterns of racism, malfeasance, accountability and shrouding information.

During the radio show, KNUS host Steffan Tubbs asked Jurinsky how she would fix staffing and other problems in the police department.

“We remove the chief immediately, and with her takes out the trash of the deputy chief of police, Darin Parker.”

Jurinsky said that during a recent lunch with Wilson, she prodded the chief to sack Parker.

“I said, ‘Even a bigger problem than you, chief, may be your appointed deputy police chief,’” Jurinsky told Tubbs. “‘He may be the bigger problem. What do you think about, as a show of faith, you know, that you mean business, and you want to change, and you want to stop losing all of these officers on your watch, why don’t we reappoint someone else and try to start fresh?’”

Aurora operates under a council-manager form of government. City council members make policy. City staff implement it. City lawmakers are precluded from intervening or interfering in city operations and personnel matters.

When her city council political foe Councilmember Juan Marcano began a formal process of censure against Jurinsky, in part because of her comments, she claimed the issue was one of free speech.

Jurinsky is right. She’s free to say whatever she wants, but Marcano’s argument was compelling in that Jurinsky’s comments were a confession to interfering in city personnel issues.

Whether the comments warranted formal censure was a matter for the city council.

They never rightfully decided the question.

The city attorney’s office hired outside counsel for fact-finding. In the meantime, Jurinsky announced she’d hired an attorney, and she indicated she would sue either Marcano, the city or both to stop the proceedings.

On March 14, the city council met in executive session to talk about the censure issue, a dubious move to begin with, given that the public has every right to understand the allegations and any defense Jurinsky could offer.

During the meeting, according to not only city council members there,  but staff as well, outside attorneys were supposed to provide some details on fact-finding, shedding light on Marcano’s claims and Jurinsky’s public admissions, and provide counsel to city lawmakers on legal ramifications, dangers and options.

They did none of that, according to multiple sources.

It instead, reportedly, became a surreal shouting match with Jurinsky angrily making a variety of claims, including that her own attorney should have accompanied her in the closed city council meeting.

City code allows for council members to meet in executive session for advice from their attorney. But just having an attorney in the room does not create an exemption to the state’s open meeting law.

Why a member of council threatening to sue the city and other members of city council would be permitted to glean information as a possible plaintiff in a lawsuit from opposing counsel is mind boggling, but it’s not the biggest problem.

According to lawmakers and staff in the room, at one point Mayor Mike Coffman polled each council member about the issue. The city council was split on ending the censure procedure then, but those wanting to stop the proceedings prevailed. It was what Colorado open meeting law experts said was a flagrant abuse of meeting laws, convening action in secret.

It gets worse.

Although the city council had illegally decided in a closed meeting to end the censure proceedings, a remaining question had to be answered in open session addressing Jurinsky’s claims that the city must reimburse her $16,000 for her attorney fees.

The city’s laws spell it out just like this: “if after a public hearing … a violation has not been established, the Council Member who is the subject of the (censure) hearing shall be entitled to reimbursement from the City for all reasonable attorney fees incurred in his or her defense.”

There was no public hearing on the matter. There was no formal accusation of charges for Jurinsky to defend against. There was no defense by her counsel on the charges that were never made clear. The city never even allowed for investigative work that it apparently paid another $16,000 or so for to talk about what if any findings were gleaned.

The gist of these council rules is that a lawmaker accused and acquitted of wrongdoing would be subject to reimbursement of legal fees.

There was no hearing and no acquittal. There should be no reimbursement until the city attorney makes a good faith effort to investigate allegations against Jurinsky and a public hearing is held to weigh any evidence.

The entire debacle is a shoddy abuse of state open meeting laws and the public’s trust.

City council members should insist that the city attorney and clerk immediately release a recording of the closed meeting.

It would first allow the public to decide how detrimental the violations and misdirections are. Making public the recording could help determine whether the city’s violations warrant investigation by the state attorney general to protect the public’s interest, since, clearly, the city council majority won’t do that.

The public has every right to expect each city council member to respect and honor the spirit and the letter of Colorado open meeting laws.

Nothing good comes from conducting the public’s business behind closed doors. Few things are as important as having a clear, open understanding of every official move their elected representatives make, especially when those actions become clouded with suspicion.

Release the secret meeting recordings so the public can judge for themselves what some city lawmakers have gone to great lengths to avoid doing.

 

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Michael Moore
4 months ago

The circus that is the Aurora City Council started after the election when Aurora voters decided to change direction. It was not something I wanted, but I accepted the result. We now all see that what we are receiving is a lot of wind and not much action. We should not be subjected to this drama. We deserve more! Ms. Jurinski in particular should learn to shut her mouth, quit pouting, and get to work for the voters. All council members need to become familiar with the law and follow it! Citizens should demand transparency above all.

DICK MOORE
4 months ago
Reply to  Michael Moore

Your opinion is the circus just started this year. The circus really started when the socialists became a majority, a couple of years ago and the citizens realized this, last year and voted to eliminate them. I will be active until the socialists are voted out or resign which I believe will be the next election. Then no more.

Looks like the right wingers on Council realize they need to be crazy to eliminate the left wing crazies. Please fight the socialist agenda until it is no more. Thank you Danielle and Dustin, you are doing exactly what we voted you in to do.

When the socialists are gone, Aurora can get back to small government, local issues that most of us scream for, not to mention a return of feeling safe in our neighborhoods.

sugar
sugar
4 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

So in your opinion, you voted Jurinsky to bully the Chief of Police, state on the radio that Aurora is not safe, and call our Chief of
Police and our Deputy Chief trash.

Did you vote for Jurinsky to bolt before the City Council meeting was over last week?
Are you proud of her for doing so?

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
4 months ago
Reply to  sugar

state on the radio that Aurora is not safe”

The crime statistics speak for themselves, n’est-ce pas?

DICK MOORE
4 months ago
Reply to  sugar

Yes, Sugar, I voted for Danielle and Dustin to make my city a safer place for my family. However they do that is up to my elected Council members. I completely agree that the leadership of the APD must change as they have failed to make our streets safe.

Personally, I wouldn’t have bolted but went toe to toe with the nasty statements made by Coombs and Marcano and finally,

Yes I’m proud of the job that she is doing and hope she keeps it up.

When Marcano and Coombs are gone, the Council meetings will return to being normal and get back to running our City in a local manner.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
4 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Define “socialism”.

DICK MOORE
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Google it, Jeff. I go with the economic and social definitions.

Simply put, everyone works in a society, gives the value of that work to the government, then the government takes that value and returns it to everyone in that society who, they deem, needs it, with no regard whether they contributed or not.

The epitome of big government.

I paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, Socialism works until the government runs out of other peoples money.

Publius
Publius
4 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Like Boxer in Animal Farm one can only resolve to work harder for so long. Eventually, when one witnesses time and again the fruits of their labor going to the lazy, indolent, and unproductive who are not only a drain on the system, but often an active hindrance to your own efforts as well as harsh of your efforts and your results, well you just decide to opt out of the socialist utopias. The only believers in socialism are those in charge of redistributing the wealth produced by the hardworking, the productive since they cut themselves in for a nice disproportionally large slice of the pie and then feel moral superiority when they gain weight. Oh, the moral superiority, how they value that!

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Define “tactical ignorance”. In between whining about Douglas County having a bunch of white people and calling a state with a Democrat governor and senators a “red” state, of course.

YooShinae55
YooShinae55
4 months ago

This is a good piece that really spells out the situation. Honestly council member Jurinsky should have just apologized and accepted the censure (if council voted that way, which is doubtful they even would have). As far as I know, censure is just a slap on the wrist and would not even have any negative outcomes. I don’t understand why everyone is bending over backwards so much over this. Hiring attorneys just to stop the process is basically saying she doesn’t even feel the city has the right to investigate misconduct, which is disturbing.

It is also incredibly ironic to me that council passed a new rule to keep city staff from bringing “policy-related” issues without a council sponsor (sponsored by council member Zvonek and passed along party lines). Yet when a council member interferes in staff matters, the same council votes to allow it? So council member Zvonek’s argument that we should respect the separation of the two does not hold any water. I am already quite tired of our council members talking out of both sides of their mouths, anyone else?

In the same vein was when council chose to limit public comment yet created an entire committee to allow developers more time and opportunity to comment. It would be nice if they could at least try not to be so blatantly hypocritical…

Bill Malone
Bill Malone
4 months ago
Reply to  YooShinae55

Zvonek and Jurinski have shown their true authoritarian selves to the public. The requirements of having a council sponsor to bring forth matters from the people who work in their capacity and discipline will stifle the flow of information, and politicize every single matter before the governing body. Zvonek and Jurinski got my vote once but never again. I call on all voters to reject these two Czars next election.

DICK MOORE
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Malone

Sorry, Bill, you haven’t analyzed this situation very well.

Bob
Bob
4 months ago

“The entire debacle is a shoddy abuse of state open meeting laws and the public’s trust”
Absolutely an abuse to the public. This legal misdirection, and manipulation was either not done in good faith, or instead, Aurora’s legal department that’s demonstrating its incompetent? Last week the Aurora city attorneys were defending themselves on their sloppiness of Brady obligation disclosures.

GeneD
4 months ago

How is it that at any level, city, county, state, or federal, ReTrumplicants are so incapable of governing? They are like a dog who finally caught a car and has no idea what to do next.

sugar
sugar
4 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

In 2020, the Commerce City Council censured their Mayor, Benjamin Huseman. He supposedly was rude to everyone, and it was reported that he apologized for getting so drunk he couldn’t remember his hotel room.

Here is the kicker – Mayor Benjamin Huseman was trying to get the Town Manager fired. The City ended up settling for more than $162,000.

Wonder if the City will get sued by Chief Wilson. I
wouldn’t blame her if she did go to court.

Benjamin Huseman is running in the Republican
primary for Governor of Colorado.

Aurora
Aurora
4 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

I think it’s revealing that good governance is the last thing on their minds. They want to run their mouths and stir up hate but are allergic to doing the business of government.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
4 months ago
Reply to  Aurora

Except that even the Sentinel has admitted that proceedings didn’t start to take a turn towards the dysfunctional until after the Emerge claque was elected to the council.

Linda Servey
Linda Servey
4 months ago

I wholeheartedly agree with this editorial. It is outrageous that public meeting laws were violated and no public hearing has been held. The idea that Jurinsky could get attorney fees reimbursed after she threatened to sue CM Marcano and the city is absurd. Not one dime for a person who was not exonerated. She’s imitating tRump trying to sue her way out of accountability. Maybe her tiara is too tight.