CLINTON — The city of Clinton violated Iowa's Open Records law when it refused to disclose records from closed session meetings regarding a 2009 EMS lawsuit and has to release records relating to the case, a judge decided Monday.
Seventh Judicial District Chief Judge Marlita Greve filed a ruling Tuesday in the Citizens For Open Government's motion for partial summary judgement against the city. She declared the city council violated the state statute by not disclosing records from six closed session meetings when the council discussed the federal False Claims Act lawsuit former Clinton firefighter Timothy Schultheis had brought on the city.
Schultheis claimed the city was billing ambulance calls as advanced life support instead of basic life support in order to receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid. The city hired Michael Walker to defend it in the case, which was settled for $4.5 million in September 2010.
The city council discussed the suit in closed session on Sept. 29, 2009; April 13, 2010; Aug. 3, 2010; Aug. 30, 2010 and twice on Sept. 28, 2010. During these meetings, the council discussed hiring Walker, the settlement, taking action against city employees and filing suit against the city's insurer, ICAP. Council members also authorized the city administrator to sign the settlement agreement, which was done on Sept. 14, 2010.
On Sept. 6, 2011, members of CFOG sent a letter to City Attorney Jeff Farwell asking for all records pertaining to the EMS litigation. Farwell denied these requests, claiming attorney-client privilege.
CFOG members and the ACLU of Iowa filed their current suit against the city in March 2012 and has been battling with the city about the records since.
This summer, CFOG was given transcripts, recordings, and tapes from six closed session meetings so it could identify open meetings law violations and on the condition that the materials not be shared.
Greve found the documents CFOG members requested were only to be kept from public disclosure up to the point that the city was bound by the settlement of EMS lawsuit, which she pegged at Oct. 1, 2010 at the latest because that was the date the city made its first payment in the $4.5 million settlement.