Oak Park responds to alleged Open Meetings Act violation

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Village of Oak Park is sticking to its guns in defending itself against an accusation that the village broke the law while hosting a meeting in November. But it could be a few months before the Illinois attorney general decides whether she agrees.

Last month, Oak Park resident David Barsotti accused the village's board of trustees of violating the Illinois Open Meetings law when elected officials discussed a controversial development behind closed doors. The private meeting, Nov. 22 at village hall, focused on whether the village wanted to give a developer more time to build a 20-story hotel in downtown Oak Park.

After deliberating behind closed doors, the board voted unanimously to grant the extension.

But Barsotti believes the village did not properly give the public notice about the meeting, and should not have discussed the extension in private. As a result, he filed a complaint with the attorney general on Dec. 19, asking the state to take a closer look at the November meeting.

Well, Oak Park responded shortly after, in a tersely worded 10 pages that was sent out to local reporters on Jan. 10. In it, Village Attorney Ray Heise maintains that Oak Park followed laws governing public meetings, and the village board had every right to discuss in private whether it wanted to give the developer an extension.

Oak Park is looking to "convey" the land under its public parking garage to the developer, Sertus Capital Partners. And it's common, Heise said, for public bodies to discuss amending sales contracts in private, and the final decision was made in the open.

"NO FINAL ACTION MAY BE TAKEN IN A CLOSED MEETING. PERIOD," Heise wrote in his response.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office confirmed last week that they had received the village's response. She could not say when they would make a ruling, but Barsotti was told that it can take up to 60 days.

In an interview Monday, Barsotti maintained his view that the village broke the law and wasn't strictly discussing "the price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body," as it's allowed to in private under the Open Meetings Act.

"I don't think their logic holds legal merit," he said.

Reader Comments

2 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OP Resident  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 8:41 PM

"Stop asking Ray Heise for advice" should be a New Year's resolution for this Village Board. The trustees let him get away with no bid contracts for outside legal counsel and he's responsible for too many botched agreements and screwed up contracts.

JMK from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2011 11:08 PM

First sentence says "The Village of Oak Park is sticking to its guns......" Isn't the Country, Media, etc. supposed to tone it done a tad?

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