Attorney general: Lisle board violated open meetings act

 
 
Updated 9/14/2016 6:13 PM

Lisle's village board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act when it held a closed-door session in June to talk about plans to refinance debt from the construction of the Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex, according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The binding opinion, issued Tuesday, directs the village board to release the verbatim recording of the June 6 closed session where the bond sale was discussed. It also directs the board "to conduct its future meetings in full compliance with OMA."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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

But the village delayed the bond sale for more than two months. On June 6 -- the date the bond sale originally was slated to happen -- trustees held a closed-door session to discuss "pending/imminent litigation."

About a week later, resident Carolyn Bartelli asked the public access counselor with Lisa Madigan's office to get involved. Bartelli said she believed the closed-session discussion was improper because it didn't involve pending or imminent litigation.

When Lisle was contacted by the public access bureau, an attorney for the village responded that the board properly entered into close session to discuss a "possible injunction and other legal action that had been threatened to overturn the village board's decision to refinance certain bonds."

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Bartelli and other residents questioned whether Lisle had the authority to refinance the debt after they collected hundreds of signatures from registered voters to put the issue on the November ballot. The petition drive failed to get the required 1,078 signatures before a May 26 deadline.

During a special village board meeting on May 31, 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 be taking any legal action against the village. Trustees went into closed session anyway.

"At the time of the June 6, 2016, meeting, 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," according to the opinion.

Therefore, the Lisle village board violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing "the mere possibility of litigation" in a closed session.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Wednesday, Lisle Mayor Joe Broda and Village Manager Jerry Sprecher both expressed disappointment about the opinion. But it's yet to be decided how the village will respond.

"We're waiting to have a conversation with our attorneys and get their take on it," Broda said.

Because it's a binding opinion, Lisle would need to file a lawsuit within 35 days in either Cook County or Sangamon County to challenge it. The suit would have to name Bartelli and the Attorney General of Illinois as defendants.

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