Lisle abandons legal fight over closed-session meeting tape

Lisle has abandoned a legal fight with the Illinois attorney general and released the recording of a closed-door discussion among village trustees about refinancing debt from the construction of the Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex.

The attorney general's public access counselor issued a binding opinion in September saying the village board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act on June 6, 2016, when it talked about the bond sale outside the public eye.

The opinion directed the board to release the "verbatim recording" of the closed session related to the bond sale.

Lisle trustees, however, voted unanimously to appeal the opinion and filed a complaint for administrative review in Sangamon County.

But on Monday night, the board agreed to release the 8-minute recording and end the appeal.

Mayor Joe Broda said in a written statement that the initial decision to seek the administrative review "was never about opposing government transparency nor to create an adversarial relationship with residents who disagreed with the board's decision to refinance the sports complex bonds."

Instead, Broda said, the appeal was "an effort to protect attorney-client privilege that provides for open communication among the board and its attorney, which also promotes the public's interest."

He said the village continues to disagree with the binding opinion because officials believe it exceeds the public access counselor's legal authority.

But "in the interest of moving the community beyond this issue," Broda said, "the village is releasing the portion of the closed-session recording as outlined in the PAC's opinion."

Trustees in August approved the sale of roughly $3.7 million in bonds to allow the village to take advantage of lower interest rates and eliminate a large balloon payment due in eight years for the sports complex. The debt will continue to be repaid with money generated from the village's hotel-motel tax.

But the village postponed the bond sale for more than two months. On June 6, 2016, - the date originally set for the sale - trustees held a closed-door session to discuss "pending/imminent litigation."

About a week later, resident Carolyn Bartelli asked the public access counselor to get involved. She said the closed-session discussion was improper because it didn't involve litigation.

Bartelli and other residents questioned whether Lisle had the authority to refinance the debt. And during a special village board meeting May 31, 2016, some members of Bartelli's group talked about the possibility of a lawsuit.

But Bartelli clearly stated during the June 6 meeting that the group wouldn't take legal action against the village. Trustees went into closed session anyway.

According to the attorney general's binding opinion, the board "did not have reasonable grounds to find that an injunction or other legal action related to the board's decision to issue new bonds for the Benedictine Sports Complex Facilities was probable or imminent."

In the recording of the closed-session meeting, village officials are heard acknowledging that Bartelli said no legal action would be taken.

Bartelli said in an email Tuesday that the village was forced to comply because it knew it was going to lose in court.

"I'm upset they wasted so much money on a poor legal defense for an issue resulting from their refusal to place the (refinancing) question on ballot," Bartelli said.

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