Numerous executive sessions unusual for Craig City Council
In the last two years, Craig City Council has found itself behind closed doors from the public in executive session 14 times out of 58 total city council meetings.
Of those 14 times, a majority of the executive sessions have dealt with council receiving legal advice on a civil suit from a local man against the police department for excessive use of force, while others have dealt with personnel matters, according to the last two years of council packets dating back to January 2019.
It is unclear if the three most recent executive sessions from Feb. 9, 2021 may have had a hand in Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong’s reported resignation. City Manager Peter Brixius said DeLong submitted his resignation on Feb. 8, but one of the executive sessions was “to discuss City Attorney recommendations regarding use of force and implementing policies and practices to reduce liability.”
When asked if the executive sessions had anything to do with Chief DeLong’s resignation, City Attorney Heather Cannon stated that she, “cannot comment on the content of the executive sessions due to client-attorney privilege.”
DeLong reportedly resigned Thursday morning, effective March 1, 2021. However, on Friday, Feb. 12, the Craig Police Department confirmed that DeLong was no longer Chief of the department as of Friday, while Capt. Bill Leonard has been placed on administrative leave.
The change in the department comes during a time in which three Craig police officers are facing a civil suit from a Craig resident stemming from a February 2020 incident in which the officers repeatedly tased the man who they knew was unarmed, was not wanted for a crime, and had himself called 911 for help with a mental health crisis.
That incident led to an internal investigation of the department’s use of force policy, which could have played a role in DeLong leaving the department.
The Craig Press filed a pair of Colorado Open Records Law requests with the city of Craig to find out more about DeLong’s departure from the department, as well as to find out more about what went on in the Feb. 9 executive sessions following city council’s bi-weekly meeting.
So far, the city of Craig has responded to the records request for executive session transcripts by noting that there are no transcripts since it was a time for councilors to receive legal counsel. While other executive sessions must be recorded or transcribed, legal counsel is exempt under Colorado law from that requirement, said Jeffrey Roberts, executive director for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
“That’s authorized as part of the exception in Colorado Open Records law,” said Jeffrey Roberts, Executive Director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “The one catch with that is that it can be tough to determine if they truly stayed on topic in those sessions, or if they strayed from topic, which is not authorized under executive sessions.”
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