Press barred from 7/20 meeting

Amid criticism , group doling out relief fund to meet victims Friday in closed-door session

By BRANDON JOHANSSON Staff writer

AURORA | The media will be barred from a meeting Friday between victims of the July 20 theater shooting and local officials doling out money from the victim relief fund, a city spokeswoman said.

The exact time of the meeting has not yet been scheduled, but Lori Mackenzie, a spokeswoman for the city of Aurora, said the media will not be allowed inside.

“Media will not be invited simply because we suspect there will need to be some confidential information shared by the victims and their families,” Mackenzie said.

The 7/20 Recovery Committee is administering the victim relief fund, which has grown to about $5 million dollars since a gunman opened fire on the Aurora Century 16 theater, killing 12 and wounded 58.

Several victims and their families on Tuesday said the money is not reaching the victims and they have been largely shut out of conversations about the fund’s future.

The families said they want more of a say in the fund’s management.

The 7/20 group has formed a nine-member executive committee that doesn’t include victim representatives. The group is made up of city leaders and nonprofit officials.

Rich Audsley, a special adviser to the committee who previously helped distribute victims funds after the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech shootings, said victims will be consulted throughout the process. Officials also said members of the committee will change in the coming months.

Amid the criticism from the victims, the committee scheduled Friday’s meeting.

Mackenzie said the meeting will be at the Aurora Municipal Center.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday who made the decision to bar the press from the meeting.

Audsley said some of the group’s meetings will be closed to media, but others won’t be.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan issued a statement Thursday apologizing to the victims and their families who are frustrated by the way the fund has been handled so far.

“On behalf of the entire Aurora City Council and executive team, I want to assure our community that we sympathize, we have heard, and we understand the concerns expressed yesterday by the families of many of those impacted by the July 20 tragedy. The organizations and agencies who have come together to create the 7/20 Recovery Committee are working very hard to ensure all of the victims’ needs are met,” he said.

Hogan said the intent all along has been to include vitim representation on the board.

“You have our commitment that the victims will have a voice as we work together to best meet their short-term and long-term needs,” he said.

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