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Let public in on Crundwell secret minutes

Dixon City Council members want to put the Rita Crundwell scandal behind them. To facilitate that goal, minutes of 16 closed-session meetings where Crundwell was discussed should be released to the public.

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

The Dixon City Council has unfinished business to attend to regarding the Rita Crundwell scandal.

Minutes of 16 closed-session city council meetings, where the Crundwell scandal was a topic, remain closed to the public.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jim Burke and city council members will meet. One of their tasks will be to conduct a semi-annual review of closed-session minutes, as required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The Open Meetings Act sets forth strict guidelines on when public bodies, such as the city council, may convene in executive session – with the public barred – to discuss topics of a sensitive nature.

However, when the need for confidentiality has passed, minutes from those closed sessions are supposed to be released for public inspection.

One tenet of the Open Meetings Act is that discussion by members of a public body be held in public. That way, citizens can listen and better understand the reasoning behind decisions made on behalf of their tax-supported units of government.

When the Dixon City Council reviewed its closed-session minutes in September, it released the minutes from six meetings but kept the minutes from 16 others closed, citing pending litigation and personnel matters. Burke said those secret meetings dealt with Crundwell.

Later in September, however, the pending litigation matter was resolved when the city’s lawsuit against its auditors and bank was settled. The city recovered an astonishing amount, nearly $40 million minus attorney’s fees.

That development, we believe, should remove all restraints on releasing the secret Crundwell minutes.

What will those minutes reveal? The council’s executive session, conducted the evening of Crundwell’s arrest by the FBI on April 17, 2012, is of great interest to the public, as are the records of the other 15 closed sessions.

Burke has already said he favors releasing the minutes “unless there is some compelling reason for withholding” them.

Does any “compelling reason” exist anymore? We doubt it.

The criminal prosecution is over. Crundwell pleaded guilty of stealing nearly $54 million. She’s behind bars for a long time. Her federal prison release date is March 5, 2030.

And the civil litigation has ended, greatly in Dixon’s favor.

It’s time to let the public in on what was discussed during those secret meetings.

 

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