Citizens for Open Government will hold a public input meeting Jan. 12. The 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Ericksen Community Center will provide an update on the group’s effort to obtain records and notes from a series of closed-session city council meetings.
“The Citizens for Open Government will provide an update concerning efforts to release the EMS Lawsuit Closed Meeting Records,” said Citizens for Open Government chairman Marty Nitschke in a statement. “We are very disappointed that Clinton city officials continue to withhold this information from the public. We are also very disappointed they paid a $4.5 million fine to the federal government with out providing any information to the public as to how or why this happened.”
The local organization hopes to shed some light on what it feels were secretive closed session records regarding the city’s decision to pay a $4.5 million settlement over Medicare billing issues.
Since the decision, some residents have questioned what specifically led to the settlement, and whether other options were considered.
A formal request to view notes and records taken during the closed session meetings was denied by city attorney Jeff Farwell, who cited attorney-client privilege.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU-IA) has been involved with Citizens for Open Government since the formal request. Attorney Michael McCarthy, of Davenport, has been retained as a cooperating attorney with the ACLU-IA, and will be present at the public meeting.
He said that the ultimate goal of the group is to get a judge to review the documents and determine what should be public record. Though attorney client privilege does protect much of what can be considered legal strategy, McCarthy said the Supreme Court has stated that such instances should be judged on a case-by-cases basis.
“I think it’s one of those things where a judge may end up reviewing the whole record,” McCarthy said. “I think that’s where we’re going to end up here.”
McCarthy added that city officials could waive attorney client privilege if they wanted to.
Stated goals of Citizens for Open Government include achieving the release of the aforementioned records and determining if any illegal actions or open meetings violations occurred during the closed session meetings. The group also hopes to see a reduction in the settlement amount.
Attendees will be asked to join the group and sign a petition asking for the release of the records.