Commissioner Bolton on gov’t transparency

RBC | Transparency in government has been defined as openness, honesty and accountability between

Shawn Bolton
elected and appointed officials and their constituents. It’s something that can be objectively measured, according to ballotpedia.org, which calls itself “the encyclopedia of American politics.”
“In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable. Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood. (ballotpedia.org/Trans-parency_checklist)
Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton agrees, but says citizens—and elected officials—have to engage in the process for government transparency to work.
“If you choose not to participate, not to show up, not to be engaged, that doesn’t mean we aren’t being transparent,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton.
Bolton said during his tenure the commissioners have “done a lot to get information out to people.” Those efforts to disseminate information to the public include mailers, articles and advertising in the paper, a comprehensive website, a Facebook page and, for a time, even changing the time of commissioner’s meetings to try and accommodate more public participation.
“We moved our meetings to evenings for a couple of months,” Bolton said. “No one showed up, so we moved them back to days.”
Bolton said the board, while he has been serving, has only gone into executive session (closed to the public and the press) one time.
“I do everything out in front of everybody, right out in front, where everybody has the opportunity to participate if they want to,” Bolton said of his approach to open government.
Asked about the use of the consent agenda, which has raised questions about transparency, Bolton said, “It doesn’t matter who you are, you can stop and ask a question at any time. As long as the chair recognizes you, you have the floor.”
Work sessions, held prior to public meetings, are where the commissioners “hash out the details” of agenda items. Bolton said all commissioners are free to vote however they want on an item, there’s no requirement to vote in agreement. Work sessions are open to public attendance, but the public rarely attends.
“The groundwork is done before meetings,” he said. “I think accusing us of not being transparent is not a fair shake. Our doors are always open.”
Bolton, who is in his second term, said he hopes to finish the projects he’s helped with, including the broadband project, improvements at the county fairgrounds and Columbine Park, and the courthouse renovation, which he says is “a couple months ahead of schedule and under budget.”
“We (the previous board) have set this county up to be in really good shape for the next 40 years,” Bolton said.