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Still waiting for sky to fall a year after vote on taping


Still waiting for sky to fall a year after vote on taping

Believe it or not, the sky didn't fall as some members of the Crestwood Board of Aldermen feared after they began tape recording closed sessions involving litigation and real estate matters.

In fact, more than a year has passed since the Board of Aldermen voted 5-2 with Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding absent to amend the city's Open Meetings and Records Policy to require the tape recording of closed sessions involving litigation and real estate matters.

In making a motion to require such taping on March 12, 2002, Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox incorporated language suggested by Ward 1 Alder-man Richard LaBore as a compromise. Alderman LaBore, however, joined Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vin-cent in voting against Maddox's motion, which was seconded by then-Ward 3 Alderman Jim Robertson, who now serves as mayor.

Besides Mr. Maddox and Mr. Robertson, Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe voted in favor of the motion.

Also voting in favor of tape recording closed sessions was Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan.

Mr. Fagan, however, initially voted against the motion.

After the vote was tallied, he said, "I'll tell you what. May I change my vote then to 'yes'?''

Then-Mayor Jim Brasfield said, "Please note that Alderman Fagan wishes to change his vote to yes.''

The vote to tape record the board's closed sessions involving litigation and real estate matters came following months of debate by aldermen over the issue. In fact, aldermen had deadlocked 4-4 several times over the issue of tape recording closed sessions involving litigation and real estate matters.

No board member ever supported tape recording closed sessions of the board involving personnel matters.

A subsequent attempt by Mr. Fagan to reconsider the vote amending the city's Open Meetings and Records Policy to require the tape recording of closed sessions involving litigation and real estate matters failed with Mr. Vincent being the only al-derman to join Mr. Fagan by seconding the motion and voting to reconsider the matter.

Aldermen supporting the tape recording of closed sessions contended it would result in more accurate minutes of such sessions while providing the public more insight into how the board arrived at decisions made during closed meetings.

Aldermen opposed to such taping had expressed concerns that the unauthorized release of information from such tapes could damage the city and that tapes of closed sessions could be discoverable as evidence in a lawsuit filed against the city.

So far it's been more than a year and the Board of Aldermen has conducted several closed sessions on a variety of matters — including litigation and real estate — and guess what? The sky hasn't fallen despite the concerns voiced by aldermen opposed to tape recording the sessions.

We believe those aldermen who voted in favor of tape recording closed sessions involving litigation and real estate should be commended for their courage in providing the dynamic, aggressive leadership that Crestwood citizens deserve. We be-lieve the Crestwood Open Meetings and Records Policy could be used as a model for municipalities throughout the state.

Interestingly, the Illinois Legislature is considering a measure that was introduced at the request of the Illinois Press Asso-ciation that would amend the Illinois Open Meetings Act to require that a verbatim record be kept of all closed sessions, either by video or audio recording.

The recording would not be available for public inspection or copying and would not be subject to discovery in any legal proceeding except one involving the enforcement of the Open Meetings Act.

On a 45-8 vote, the Illinois Senate re-cently approved the bill, which now is being considered by the Illinois House.

Ironically, groups such as the Illinois Community College Trustees Association are opposed to the proposal.

We hope it passes. We also hope our state legislators take notice of the innovative legislation being considered by our neighbor. Illinois has a far superior Sunshine Law to ours, which is in dire need of improvement.

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