The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 9, 2013

Judge releases records from closed sessions

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

CLINTON — CLINTON — The transcripts from six closed sessions when the Clinton City Council discussed its 2009 Medicare fraud lawsuit are open to the public, a judge decided Friday.

During a pre-trial conference Friday between the city, Citizens for Open Government and Seventh District Judge Nancy Tabor, the parties agreed six sets of closed session transcripts are public record because they were used as exhibits in the city’s legal malpractice suit against attorney Michael Walker.

The Sept. 29, 2009; April 13, 2010; Aug. 3, 2010; Aug. 30, 2010 and two sessions from Sept. 28, 2010, which are available to the public through the Scott County Clerk’s office, where the case was transferred.

At its first closed session meeting relating to the suit, the council learned of the federal False Claims Act case brought on behalf of the U.S. government by former Clinton firefighter Timothy Schultheis alleging the city was knowingly submitting false ambulance claims to Medicare and Medicaid in order to receive higher reimbursement rates. By coding basic life support instead of advanced life support the city was able to get more money from the federal programs, Schultheis alleged.

The transcripts detail the discussions leading up to the case being settled in 2010 for $4.5 million to be paid to Schultheis and the U.S. Department of Justice in annual installments of $450,000 over the course of 10 years, with the money to come from the debt service levy. Schultheis and his attorneys receive 30 percent of the settlement.

The city’s legal malpractice suit happened last month against Walker, who represented it in the Schultheis case came before a Scott County jury. The jury found Walker was not negligent and awarded the city nothing of the $4.67 million it wanted.

Because the meetings were used in the case and entered as exhibits, they are public record.

CFOG Chairman and Ward 3 Councilman-elect Ed O’Neill said his group believes the City Council violated the Open Meetings Law 46 times throughout the closed sessions.

The group has been working with the ACLU-Iowa in pursuit of the records for more than two years and announced they had the records at a meeting in July. However, they could not release them until a judge ordered it.

“That was our main objective to let the citizens have the same information as the council had when making their decision,” O’Neill said.

Although the closed session transcripts have been released, the case between CFOG and the city is not complete.

Judge Marlita Greve has yet to rule on whether or not the city violated the Open Records Law during the closed session, as CFOG’s motion for partial summary judgement requested.

Further, the case is set to go to trial on Nov. 20.