Independent Evaluator Releases Report on Sex Offender Management Board
An independent, impartial, third-party contractor has completed and released a review of the meeting policies, procedures, board conduct, and ethics/conflict of interest policies of the Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB).
The SOMB chose to seek a third-party evaluation in order to address concerns raised by legislators in House Bill 18-1427, which was vetoed by then-Governor Hickenlooper because it was deemed “redundant and overbroad,” duplicating existing law as well as new requirements set forth in House Bill 18-1198.
In July 2018, the SOMB hired Trent Bushner, a Yuma County Commissioner with a thorough understanding of best practices for public meetings and policy discussion, to conduct the review. Additionally, Commissioner Bushner contracted with the law firm Kissinger & Fellman, PC, to research and make recommendations regarding ethics/conflict of interest policy issues for the board.
The evaluator produced the following reports and products:
Key findings and recommendations of the independent evaluator include:
- The SOMB members are “professional, dedicated, and knowledgeable,” and make “tough decisions that rarely get a full consensus because of the diversity of stakeholders represented.” However, the board may be too large and may have representation from unnecessary stakeholders. Commissioner Bushner recommended that the legislature “evaluate the size and make-up of the Board and strive to reconstitute the Board” from 25 members to 11-15 members.
- Overall, the Board and its committee structure work “quite well.”
- Board meetings tend to be long due to lengthy discussions, wordsmithing by committee, and public comment that is taken throughout various points in the meeting instead of limited to a specific public comment agenda item. Commissioner Bushner outlined various recommendations to Board/Committee chairs to streamline the process while protecting the rights of all voices to be heard.
- The Board is in compliance with Colorado open record and record retention laws. Meeting minutes are written comprehensively and professionally; agendas provided prior to the meetings could be more comprehensive and accessible. Mr. Bushner recommended that electronic copies of agendas, recordings and minutes be available online at least five days before and/or within five days after each meeting.
- Board members would like a mentor program and training for new board/committee members.
- The statute that created the SOMB does not contain specific ethics/conflicts requirements. Other boards with statutory conflict of interest provisions are subject to a range of requirements: Some take a conservative approach and require abstention from even the appearance of a conflict; others allow voting so long as the conflict is properly disclosed. The law firm provided a draft conflict of interest policy disclosure statement for the SOMB that is comprehensive and satisfies the requirements of HB 18-1198. Commissioner Bushner concluded, “Committee chairs should always be aware of conflicts of interest. Members should strictly adhere to Article 7, section 7.2 of the bylaws. All committee members should fill out and sign a conflict of interest disclosure each year.”
Commissioner Bushner presented his review to the SOMB on Feb. 15, 2019. Members of the SOMB and CDPS staff who support the board have already been working to proactively research and, in some cases, implement improvements that align with the recommendations in this report.
In October 2018, the SOMB developed a strategic action plan to improve its governance and decision-making processes, which includes a Board Engagement strategy to determine and implement best practices for engaging the skill, talent, and expertise of all Board members.
In December 2018, CDPS applied for a grant to fund establishment of an online record-keeping system that will make it possible for the public to search for and download the board’s records while reducing staff time spent manually managing the web site. We expect to begin work building the record-keeping system by the end of March.
In January 2019, all members of the SOMB signed a conflict of interest disclosure statement and agreement acknowledging existing conflict of interest requirements in the SOMB bylaws. The board will review the proposed conflict of interest/ethics policy recommended by Kissinger & Fellman at the March 15, 2019, SOMB meeting, and will likely adopt the policy at a future meeting.
Additionally, the SOMB will review the details of the third-party evaluation in detail to determine which recommendations can be implemented immediately and which will require a change to SOMB Bylaws.