WHAT IS A LEGAL PUBLICATION?
Legal publications, better known as Public Notices, can be divided into two broad categories: Warning Notices and Accountability Publications.
Warning Notices tell the public what proposed government actions may affect their lives. These notices include ordinances which change the laws under which an entity operates, elections, public trustee sales, hearings on zonings or water rates, delinquent tax lists, proposed constitutional amendments and many others. Warnings circumvent lawsuits.
Accountability Publications stipulate that governmental entities must report to the public on the way they are conducting business. These notices include expenditures, financial statements, and notices of bids. Although governmental books are open to public scrutiny, publication allows the citizen ample time to study the figures without interrupting public officials and serves as a deterrent to rumors about improper spending by local officials.
WHO DETERMINES WHAT NOTICE MUST BE GIVEN?
In Colorado, the State Legislature has set the standards for public notice by governmental entities, and the courts have set standards for notice to individuals who need to be warned of actions about to be taken against them. Since more than 1,800 governmental entities exist, logic dictates that basic references to Public Notice should be collected within a single source, The Colorado Revised Statutes, and determined by a single body, the State Legislature.
Public notice has been an integral part of the Colorado Revised Statutes since statehood because it serves several purposes:
- Public notice requires the governmental entity to tell when hearings are to be held, how money is being spent, what laws are being passed, what property is being sold, etc.
- Public notice provides a permanent record of actions that are taken and a legally defensible notification of actions about to be taken.
- Public notice is the ONLY way that exact wording can be provided by the entity’s counsel.
WHY ARE NEWSPAPERS USED?
The State Legislature has also set standards for the communication of public notices. To insure that every citizen has an equal opportunity to access public notice, legislators chose newspapers. Newspapers have two attributes which contributed to this decision:
- Verbatim text, the legal language necessary to provide total Public Notice, can be spread most easily among members of the public by a compact written notice which can be studied at length, preserved in a home or office, and collected for future reference in a repository outside the jurisdiction of the local government, a newspaper’s archives.
- Selection of a source for publication outside the government provides a second-party witness to the fact that the public has been informed of this important information.