The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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March 13, 2014

Frey: Allegations not 'shenanigans'

CLINTON — The city’s decision on whether to appeal an open records ruling carried over into Tuesday’s regular meeting, and once again, the discussion over conflicts of interest arose.

Citizens for Open Government won the case in February. Councilman Ed O’Neill, formerly of CFOG, called the conflicts allegations “shenanigans,” stating he was assured by legal counsel no conflict was in order.

Clinton’s interim attorney, John Frey, had a rebuttal.

Frey advised Clinton City Administrator Jessica Kinser on the matter when discussions first arose for the Feb. 25 council meeting. The City Council decided on that day not to appeal the ruling, meaning it will cover $40,680 in legal expenses.

Kinser relayed Frey’s advice along with that of two other attorneys. In a memo, she named O’Neill and councilman John Rowland as potentials risks for conflicts of interest. Both refuted the claims, and questioned Kinser’s methods.

Tuesday night, Frey backed the administrator and his colleagues.

“There was no question about whether there might be personal gain from a money judgment against the city, or simply from having a court say the (council)member’s team was right, and the city was wrong,” he said. “There was a declaration of who won and who lost the litigation. In my judgment there was no impropriety prejudice or personal animosity on the part of the city staff or the city legal advisers. In my judgment, we did our jobs in a professional manner.”

Quoting O’Neill, Frey added: “And I don’t think it’s shenanigans.”

As with its previous meeting, the council voted 6-1 to not appeal, with councilman Paul Gassman repeating as the “no” vote. O’Neill said this is a time for the council to move forward.

As for conflicts of interest, he trusts his colleagues to dismiss themselves if something of the ilk ever again arises.

“There’s seven people up here, and we all took an oath to do a good job,” O’Neill said. “The six people I serve with up here, I’m just going to regard on their integrity, their honesty.”

However, O’Neill still feels the allegations were “a knee-jerk” reaction.

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