Clinton County District Court Judge Mark J. Smith has ruled that the Clinton City Council violated Iowa’s Open Meetings Law when it met as a committee of the whole in closed session Sept. 13, 2011.
At that meeting the council members discussed policy-making decisions regarding eliminating certain positions in order to address a $800,000 budget deficit.
While no votes were taken, Smith’s ruling says, “In reading the transcript (of the meeting) it would appear that the council members clearly indicated their positions and, with a wink and a nod, indicated to the administrator that it was his decision to make.
“These policy making decisions did not constitute a mere irregularity or technical violation of the Open Meetings Law.
“It did affect the public’s ability to give the council input or be aware of the reasoning of the council concerning the elimination of those positions and the severance packages.
“There was no discussion concerning individual employees’ performances or their discharge based on performance” (which would have qualified for a closed session under the Open Meetings Law).
“The above does not constitute substantial compliance with the Open Meeting Law and, is in fact, the reason why the Open Meetings Law was created---to allow not only the public, but city employees, to be aware of what the council was doing and their reasoning therefore when they eliminated positions.”
Smith concluded his ruling by saying, “The penalty or damage phase should be set for hearing at the same time as trial on the Sept. 2, 2011 meeting” (which deals with documents.) The Iowa Civil Liberties Union is supporting that issue.