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Bloomington Won’t Contest Court Ruling Over Open Meeting Violation

Two people walking in downtown Bloomington
WGLT file photo
Two people cross the street in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington will not further challenge an Illinois appeals court ruling that the city violated the state's Open Meetings Act in a closed-door meeting in 2017, City Manager Tim Gleason said Tuesday.

The Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield determined in April the city council went into closed session to discuss the political — rather than legal — consequences of the city's plan to pull out of a tax-sharing agreement with the Town of Normal.

The council stated it went into closed session in February 2017 to discuss pending or probable litigation.

According to the appeals court, there was little discussion of a lawsuit. Then-Mayor Tari Renner said after the meeting he didn’t anticipate a lawsuit over the city’s intentions to dissolve the Metro Zone agreement, a west-side tax-sharing deal the Twin Cities had for decades.

Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason

Bloomington terminated the agreement with Normal one week after the closed meeting. No lawsuits were filed.

“The best next steps are to just to accept the ruling at the appellate level and trust that both communities are moving beyond this and we can put this behind us,” said Gleason, noting nearly the entire council and much of city administration has turned over since that 2017 meeting.

Gleason said he doesn't second guess City Attorney Jeff Jurgens who advised the council before the closed meeting.

“You’ve got a very narrow scope that you can go into executive session for and you need to respect that,” Gleason said. “Sometimes you venture beyond that and you have to take your lumps if something like this occurs.”

Gleason said the city initially did not want to release the audio, but now it’s OK with doing so in order to move on.

The city filed a petition for a rehearing with the appellate court Springfield on May 17. The court denied the request two days later.

The city denied requests from WGLT and The Pantagraph to release the audio under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The city indicated in its denial that the recording is part of the sealed court record. The city has until June 23 to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office looked into the case after then-McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers questioned the legality of the closed-door meeting.

Gleason said Bloomington and Normal maintain a strong working relationship. He said that must continue even if it leads to occasional entanglements, such as the recent discovery that a sewer billing error went undetected for nine years, meaning Bloomington owes Normal hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We are too close as Twin Cities that there are efficiencies in our cooperation with one another,” Gleason said. “We are much strong together and both communities know that.”

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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