The Dixon City Council has the power to keep its closed session minutes forever secret, but the state Open Meetings Act requires that public bodies review their minutes at least every 6 months to determine whether the need for "confidentiality" still exists.
Most governing bodies in this area do such reviews, although we learned last year that a few had not, including Lee County and Sterling.
This week, the Dixon City Council unanimously voted to keep a bunch of closed session minutes secret, some of which, presumably, dealt with Rita Crundwell.
On the night of April 17, 2012, hours after FBI agents arrested the then-comptroller, the council met and immediately closed its doors to discuss Crundwell. The minutes from that meeting, the council decided, should be kept secret.
The reason: The lawyers told us to. End of discussion.
Maybe the attorneys have a really good reason. The public just doesn't know what it is.
After all, Crundwell is behind bars, convicted of making off with nearly $54 million. The feds seized her assets, and the city got the money. The city settled its lawsuit with its bank and auditors, who, it claimed, failed to catch Crundwell's crimes.
Sure, the city has yet to get Crundwell's interest in real estate that she shared with her family. That will take some time, but would release of the April 17, 2012, minutes have any effect on that process?
If Dixon never released these minutes, it would have plenty of company around here. We have local school boards that keep all of its minutes secret.
But residents may not be so tolerant about secrecy of records in connection with the reviled Crundwell, especially when the city promised to become more open in the wake of the scandal.
A few days before the council vote, Commissioner Dennis Considine said the minutes could eventually be made public.
The question is, Why not now?
An exceptionally great news release
Public relations people sometimes oversell. That seemed to be the case this week with a news release from the office of Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, whose district includes Whiteside County.
The headline advertised the fact that Jacobs hosted a senior fair in Moline "to great success." The turnout was "exceptional" at the fair, which was "bustling with energy." And the senator "kicked off his shoes" to take part in some of the services offered.
If only we could have gotten a picture of those flying shoes ...
David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at email@example.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on Twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.