DENVER – A judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction a former FEMA administrator and his nonprofit sought with respect to a lawsuit he filed over the county’s awarding of a debris cleanup bid after the Marshall Fire.
But the portion of the lawsuit filed by Demanding Integrity in Government Spending (DIGS) that claims Boulder County commissioners broke Colorado Open Meetings Law in convening executive sessions to talk about the debris removal contract that was awarded to DRC Emergency Services, LLC, based in Louisiana, will move forward and the judge will rule later this month.
Michael Brown, the former FEMA administrator under President George W. Bush, is behind the nonprofit.
Judge Stephen Enderlin Howard denied the ask for a temporary restraining order and denied the request for a preliminary injunction without prejudice. DIGS had sought to block the county from signing the contract with DRC.
In court Friday, the attorney for DIGS made arguments as to why open meetings law was violated during the process and how the plaintiffs believe the award process could cause FEMA to pull out of reimbursing funding, while the county argued that the evaluation committee involved in the vetting process is not a public body with decision-making abilities and that the final decision on the bid was up to the Boulder County commissioners. The county had previously argued that since Brown had not proven he was a Boulder County resident, he had no standing to file the lawsuit.
County attorney David Hughes said all the meetings related to the debris management were properly noticed and that DIGS has not proven an injury because of the process.
DIGS’ attorneys said in a filing this week it was no longer trying to block the signing of the contract, which led the county to say it would move ahead with the process and sign the contract with DRC in a meeting scheduled for March 22.
Judge Howard said he would issue a written order sometime in the next two weeks and set a date of March 30 for the next hearing in the case.
“The hearing today went as expected, and the county is hopeful the judge will enter judgment in favor of the County when he rules on the merits,” Hughes said.
Louisville City Councilman Kyle Brown said the fact that the debris removal contract can be signed, and the process move forward, was a relief to the community.
“There are hundreds of families in Louisville that are waiting on our debris removal program and waiting to begin, and this is an important step,” he said. “…I will let the court process play out. We are confident in our process here at the city. We are confident in our partners at the county, and we are thankful for the support and work of our state and federal partners in putting this effort together.”
But he said it was disappointing that the start of the program has been delayed while the litigation was pending, and said he wanted DIGS to come talk with the community about the work toward recovery.
Tawnya Somauroo, a board member of Marshall Together, which filed to intervene in the suit this week, called the dismissal of the requests for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction “good news.” She said hopefully crews can still meet the plans to have the debris removal program completed by July.
“I’m glad that the contract can begin, but I worry that the cloud of the litigation will still effect how it gets executed,” Somauroo said. “…I’d rather that the cloud was clear of all litigation, and we could just move forward.”