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No Open Meetings Act Violation In Bloomington Yet

Five aldermen who tried to remove the Welcoming City ordinance from the Bloomington council agenda probably did not break the law, according to a noted First Amendment and public access attorney in Illinois.

Alderman Joni Painter sent the Feb. 5 email to the city's interim city manager and attorney, asking to pull discussion about the ordinance from Monday's agenda, according to a copy of the email obtained by GLT. The email is signed by Painter and fellow aldermen David Sage, Karen Schmidt, Mboka Mwilambwe, and Kim Bray. The other four were not recipients of that email.

"It does raise questions about how much city business they are doing to circumvent the act, though not violate it."

"No absolutely not. We did absolutely nothing that violated the Open Meetings Act," said Painter.

Painter said the five aldermen were very careful to avoid problems with the law.

"All correspondence we had between us was done one on one or one on two. We didn't meet together. We didn't meet at all," said Painter.

Lawyer Don Craven of Springfield said it does not sound like a violation.

"But it does raise questions about how much city business they are doing to circumvent the act, though not violate it," said Craven.

Mayor Tari Renner said during GLT's Sound Ideas that there could be an Open Meetings Act violation if aldermen decline to do something on the ordinance in public.

Renner said the council in December asked for staff to report back with a draft ordinance. At the very least, he said, the council needs to formally receive that at a public meeting.

Renner said they could table it. They could vote against it. They could accept the information and then decline to act. But, Renner said, having begun in public, it needs to come back to a public meeting.

The Keep Families Together Coalition began work on a Welcoming City ordinance proposal about a year ago and went public last May with a march on City Hall.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.