The Full Story of the Emma’s Landing Grift Will Never Be Known, But What Is Known is Ugly
On November 7, 2022, the Geneva City Council finally released partial minutes of its April 20th, 2020, secret session. Although a FOIA request had been made for the minutes and tape of that secret meeting, the tape was destroyed anyway. The released minutes were redacted, so the release was only partial. The OMA exemption from transparency cited by the City Council does not exist for several of the closed sessions. The Council often invented an exemption by combining two provisions into one. The fragment of the April 2020 minutes made public reveals the council discussed a donation of the Emma’s Landing site, not the “sale or lease” of the property. No OMA exemption exists for discussion of the donation of public property. The Council on April 20 also discussed “pending litigation” but failed to cite the legal action that was pending.
The nuances of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) are many, and judicial case law is sparse. OMA_Reference_Guide.pdf (champaign.il.us) Given that no duty or requirement exists that closed secret session minutes be redacted or that verbatim recordings be destroyed, why is the City of Geneva so zealous in covering its Emma’s Landing tracks? The Geneva administration and City Council claim this: “The City of Geneva’s mission is to conduct government business in an open and transparent manner for all of our community stakeholders.” Government Transparency | Geneva, IL – Official Website
The City of Geneva talks the virtuous talk, but does it walk the straight and narrow path to transparency? Presented here is an example of one closed secret session, that of April 20th, 2020. The subject matter was both contentious and emotionally charged. The context is important. The meeting took place during the darkest days of a novel pandemic: Sars CoV-2 (Covid-19). The governor claimed emergency powers (some still “in force” today) that, among other things, suspended the Open Meeting Act. The legislature voluntarily disbanded. The governor did not call the legislature into an emergency session. The governor urged and advised but never ordered that only “emergency” measures be addressed by local governments during the crisis. On March 20, 2020, the governor ordered, without any due process, that citizens be detained by issuing a universal “stay at home” decree. (The mayor introduced an ordinance that would have the Geneva police cite and fine Genevans who “violated” this decree.) Pritzker also banned gatherings of ten or more people. The time was ripe for Rahm Emanuel’s “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Quote by Rahm Emanuel: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste….” (goodreads.com)
Please note that the land donation was discussed secretly several times, including on February 10, February 24, and April 20, 2020. Here are copies of the minutes of the three secret sessions minutes (the other minutes refer to an unrelated land matter):
Long after the February 24, 2020, meeting the letter below was discovered via a FOIA request made to the Illinois Housing Development Agency (IHDA):
The document below was also acquired via FOIA from IHDA. “11831” was Emma’s Landing file number of its application for federal and state grants. “Site Control” was mandatory and “land donation” garnered the application extra points.
Below is the State of Illinois Press Release (see page 2) that Emma’s Landing was a “winner” of IHDA approval for funding and that wrongfully claims that the site was donated by the City of Geneva. after the Press Release is another improper communication with the Burton Foundation providing it with information unavailable to Geneva citizens. The Mayor and Council were obsessed with the delusion that they could tax and spend Geneva into affordability.
The Geneva City Council on April 20, 2020, did not deliberate on the sale price for the Emma’s Landing site. Rather the Council schemed on how to waive permitting fees and gifting the site to the Fellhaurs, AKA, Burton Foundation. The Posse Comitatus night riders even went so far as to discuss how to darkly grease the deal past their own constituents. Is fraud too strong of a term when the City attorney secretly corresponds with an outside party and provides “the form” of a document not even yet seen by the City Council? From where in the Municipal Code does the City Administrator get the authority to set the Council’s agenda? Or does a wink and nod from the mayor suffice?
If the City of Geneva lasts a thousand years, people will look back and declare “This was their darkest hour.”