I’m writing this letter to express my displeasure over the way I was treated as a member of the public at the April 11, 2011 Parks and Recreations Commission and to further express my displeasure over the way that meeting, and apparently the PRC, is run as a municipal body.
While this was my first visit to the PRC, as a lawyer with 30 years of experience, I’m no stranger to meetings of municipal bodies, having attended hundreds of all kinds. Since we govern ourselves in this country, municipal bodies of all types are designed to be run by elected or appointed members of the public. That’s the way a representative form of Democracy works. The governing body sets the agenda, runs the meetings and adopts policy that the paid staff is then directed to implement. Staff, that would be David Cosgrove for the PRC, is invited to attend the meetings to provide information and guidance on technical issues. My further experience is that proceedings are always tape recorded to provide an accurate record and accountability. However, it is my understanding that is not required by Colorado statute or Lyons ordinance. While not required under present procedures, I would suggest taping all meetings would be a vehicle to improve current practices.
Contrary to what I’ve outlined, Mr. Cosgrove sets the agenda for the PRC, runs the meeting, and provides pre-written copy of the resolutions he wants adopted. Apparently, the appointed members of the PRC do not understand their role, as they willingly allow this process to occur. In all fairness, there are one or two commissioners who have minds of their own and try to meet the needs of the public. It seems Mr. Cosgrove does a good job of silencing any attempted leadership or dissent.
Even though I was the only member of the public present, I was not welcomed (I was asked my name), not given a copy of the agenda, nor told if and when there would be a time for public comments. I waited until it appeared deliberations were about half done on the agenda item I had come to speak about (Bohn Park, the merits of which I will address in a separate letter) and, it was clear that unless I spoke up, the matter would be voted on and I would be given no opportunity to speak. Reluctantly, I interrupted the proceedings and in response to my query was told I would be given a chance to speak.
When I did speak, Mr. Cosgrove and some of the Commissioners interrupted me, argued with me, and in so many words told me my view was wrong. Whew! I was there just to exercise my right of free speech, not to get into an argument. The way Mr. Cosgrove and the board treated my presence and comments were very hostile, unprofessional, and degrading.
Prior to the March meeting, which I was unable to attend, I had written a letter to the PRC and, as the town’s website directs, I attached the letter to an email addressed to our mayor, Julie VanDomelen, asking that the attachment be delivered to each of the PRC Commissioners. The Mayor emailed me back, thanking me for the letter and assured me it would be passed on to the Commissioners prior to the March meeting.
At the beginning of the April meeting, Mr. Cosgrove passed to the Commissioners a stack of papers, noting that negative comments had been received from some Lyons residents which he was passing out for their information. (Presumably, my March letter was included in that stack—the first time the PRC had seen it.) He stated that the PRC need not consider those comments, as those residents would have plenty of time and opportunity to express their opinions when the matter came up for public hearing by the Board of Trustees. He stated it was more appropriate that those views be heard at that level, rather than at the PRC.
(I beg to differ. It seems to me that Commissioners who, by definition represent all the residents of Lyons, have both a duty and an obligation to hear all perspectives, even ones that disagree with their position or Mr. Cosgrove’s personal agenda before they adopt a recommendation to the BOT.)
Finally, even before the Commission deliberated on the Bohn Park matter, Mr. Cosgrove knew, or assumed that it would be voted on with a positive recommendation! Otherwise, why would he buck up the letters to the BOT? And, not surprisingly, he had indeed already drafted the language he wanted included in the resolution he wanted adopted at that meeting.
I am asking for a full investigation and report as to (a) the way I was treated as a Lyons taxpaying citizen as outlined above, and (b) the way Mr. Cosgrove runs PRC according to his private agenda rather than a commission appointed to serve the public running itself.
April 24, 2011