CLOSED SESSION ON PENDING LITIGATION PURSUANT TO ILCS 120/2(C)(11)Committee of the Whole Agenda item 6, December 19, 2022
“‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the town, not a voter was focused on what soon will come down.”With Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.
This Monday night, the Geneva City Council will vote unanimously to enter a secret session. They will discuss “pending litigation.” Or will they?
Geneva’s cited exception to the Open Meetings Act refers to “pending litigation.” Pending Litigation means a proceeding in a court of law whose activity is in progress but not yet completed. At least, this is the meaning understood by many of us. But the OMA exception contains other words. In America, in 2022, any statement that can be construed by anyone as criticism can be stretched into “threatened litigation.” Almost without exception, a duly filed lawsuit immediately becomes a public document. An open, honest governmental unit can certainly go into closed session to discuss a pending lawsuit with its attorneys. But why would transparency not require citing the actual filed pending complaint?
We know the City has pending legal action over its disapproval of the Oscar Swan cell tower. Is this the subject matter for Monday night? An interested citizen likely will never know.
Here is A Parable of Emma’s Landing. On February 25, 2020, the City of Geneva improperly informed its most favored developer (other applicants existed, such as MVAH), the Burton Foundation, that the Geneva City Council had approved Emma’s Landing in secret the night before and had also agreed to donate the City-owned land. The Burton Foundation forwarded this City of Geneva’s email “approval and donation” document to the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Citing the Geneva faux largess, IHDA awarded Emma’s Landing application bonus points based on the communication. A hefty sum of money was at stake, and only half the contestants advanced to the next round. A recording of February 24, 2020, clandestine nocturnal City Council Emma’s Landing discussion existed. The OMA exemption invoked does not exist. This recording may have been an audio tape, but in 2020 it was more likely in digital form.
Burton Foundation won the competition through the City of Geneva treachery. On October 31, 2022, a Geneva citizen, citing the Freedom of Information Act, requested a copy of the recording of the February 24, 2020, secret meeting. Recordings are required under Illinois law. On November 7, 2022, the City Council, in secret session, voted unanimously to destroy the tape and release the printed minutes of the meeting (which have not yet been found on the city website). As seen in the email threads below, The City of Geneva played a “hide the peanut” shell game with the requester, who never found the peanut.
The requester has been “deemed” a frequent FOIA pest by the City of Geneva, which put in place a one-month (“21 business days”) embargo on his requests for information. The Illinois FOIA law allows this designation but never requires it. Who (and under what authority) imposed this restrictive status on the requester’s civil rights has not been divulged by the City.
Document 1 Below: A “Special” Meeting sets up an ambush since it is not on the schedule. This meeting invoked an OMA exception that contains this: “purchase, lease or sale.” No OMA exception contains this phrase.
Document 2: FOIA Request on October 31, 2022, required review past due.
Document 3: Geneva Response to Oct 31, 2022, FOIA Request/reminder that required review is past due.
Document 4: The City’s ambush tactics worked, and the peanut shell game was rigged from the start. Please scroll to the highlights. Note that once again, the City cited a non-existent OMA exception. At the bottom, you will find the November 12, 2022, FOIA second request for the audio recording. Democracy dies in darkness.
Twice within two weeks, a concerned citizen requested FOIA access to an audio recording of an improperly convened secret session. The decisions unlawfully made were unlawfully communicated to Burton Foundation by an unauthorized City employee. First, the recording was not released, and then the recording was destroyed a week later. A forensic search of all the City Hall laptops could “un-erase” the recording. Nothing can remove the soil and tarnish from the character of the mayor and his handpicked staff. The City Council is legally the responsible entity that “owns” all this deception.
2 thoughts on “Emma’s Landing: The Geneva City Council Night Riders Saddle Up Again for a Furtive Raid on Open and Honest Government”
In 1889 a newspaper in Marion, Kansas printed a version of the non-metaphorical saying with the word “sunshine” instead of “sunlight”:
Don’t be afraid of sunshine. It is the best disinfectant and will keep the doctor at a distance.
Many Geneva stalwart east siders migrated to Kansas and Nebraska in the 1850s, like Dr. Addison Danford and August Drahms. They were free staters who chose bloody Kansas where the term “night riders” was coined (think “Bloody Bill Quantrill.”) When Luther Dearborn’s addition was added to Geneva in the mid-1850s, Luther named one of the three streets Kansas and one Nebraska. Addison and Willis Danforth were medical students of Dr. George Washington Richards of the local Franklin Institute fame. Willis adopted the clan’s 18th-century spelling “Danforth” by the time he became Mary Todd Lincoln’s physician. Reverend Drahms, the San Quintin Chaplin and author of the first U.S. textbook on criminology, returned as a widower to Geneva and married Ruth Danford, sister of the physicians and daughter of the reaper inventor. Sadly, the Geneva cadre of supporters of liberty and open and ethical government has withered away. The current bunch of night riders recently allowed Drahms’ old home on the east side hill to be demolished. Kansas has always been a haven for Geneva physicians. Addison was a member of the First Free State Territorial Legislature and attended its 50th-anniversary reunion in 1907.
You correctly observe that the night riders keep me at a distance but by employing the modern tactic of ghosting, not the old-fashioned light of sunshine.