Facing a lawsuit alleging an array of open meetings violations, the Village of Cascade has responded in part by restricting public access to village government, removing meeting agendas and minutes from their website.
“They’re not required to, but if they really are trying to demonstrate a commitment to open government in the face of an open meetings lawsuit, to start providing less access and information to the citizens seems to be an odd step to take,” said attorney Matthew Fleming.
Fleming represents Susan Lodl, a Cascade resident who filed suit against the village in November 2010 alleging it repeatedly discussed the purchase of two wind turbines without adequately advising residents on agendas. The lawsuit details numerous meetings where minutes show the wind turbines were discussed but the agenda contained no mention or only a vague mention of the topic.
Those agendas and minutes are no longer accessible online, however.
Village Clerk Sherry Gallagher said the village posts agendas at Village Hall, the Cascade Post Office and National Exchange Bank & Trust. State open meetings law requires only that agendas be posted “in one or more places likely to be seen by the general public.”
Gallagher said the village removed the online notices and “essentially … shut down” the website on advice from their attorney, but she did not specify whether that was Village Attorney David Andrews or Raymond Pollen, the village’s counsel for the lawsuit.
Neither Andrews nor Pollen would say if they advised the village to remove the postings, citing client confidentiality. Pollen did say the postings are not related to the lawsuit and he is only advising the village on lawsuit issues.
Village President David Jaeckels, however, apparently linked the online postings to the lawsuit as he refused to comment on the posts or other aspects of the case. He hung up on a reporter when pressed on the reason for removing the postings.