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updated: 3/8/2013 12:08 AM

Buffalo Grove trustees attend candidates forum after all

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Just days after they pulled out of a planned candidates forum citing fears it would violate the state's Open Meetings Act, three Buffalo Grove village trustees reversed course and decided to attend Thursday's event along with the one write-in candidate.

Trustees Beverly Sussman, Andrew Stein and Lester Ottenheimer III joined Jeff Batinnus in the forum hosted by the group Save Buffalo Grove at Village Tavern and Grill after canceling earlier in the week, but they spoke in two separate sessions amid concerns about legal violations.

In the first hour, Sussman and Ottenheimer introduced themselves to a standing-room-only crowd and discussed their views on the future of Buffalo Grove, economic development in the village and their opinions on a controversial concept for a downtown to possibly be built on the village golf course.

Stein was not in the room during their discussion, and in the second hour he and Batinnus discussed the same issues and took similar questions from the audience.

"I don't think this would have happened unless I stood up and said something," said Batinnus, who had announced he would attend the forum either way. Batinnus originally filed paperwork to run for village board but was thrown off the ballot and has since decided to run anyway as a write-in.

The trustees on Monday said they would not attend on the advice of Village Attorney William Raysa, who said their appearance at an event where they would discuss village business could violate of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

But a day later, the Illinois attorney general's office told the Daily Herald that a public event at which candidates discuss their backgrounds and positions on issues facing the village would not be a violation.

Sussman notified Save Buffalo Grove member Leon Gropon of the trustees' decision in an email Wednesday.

"The last few days have been very difficult for Andy, Les and me," Sussman wrote. "We wanted to participate in Candidates' Night as well as follow the opinion handed down by the Village Attorney. After much discussion, we will participate in Candidates' Night with the Agenda Items that you sent us on March 1st."

All four candidates said they wanted to get more information about the downtown concept before making a decision, and that without environmental or other studies done, it is much too early to speculate about the details of the plan.

The candidates, however, were mixed on if the issue should go to a referendum before all those details are planned out.

Sussman mentioned the low number of voters that often participate in local elections compared with the broad impact the decision would have on the village, but all said they would be open to discussing getting voter opinion once more facts are known.

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