City of Lincoln: Vote to request independent audits of Logan County Alliance and Tourism Bureau passes 5-2
Part three: Lance Rainforth cautions aldermen on possible FOIA and Open Meetings Acts violations

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[March 28, 2016]  LINCOLN - Lance Rainforth also addressed the council on the topic of the Chamber/LCA/Tourism audits. Rainforth is the son of Abe’s Carmelcorn Shoppe owner Helen Rainforth.

He began by saying that the first thing he wanted to say was not even the reason he had come to the meeting. It had come to mind while he was listening to the presentation by Snyder and O’Donohue. He questioned, “How often it is that the council is addressed by a group or association that is not the group or association in question. Because we just heard from the Logan County Alliance claiming they were the Chamber of Commerce speaking on behalf of Tourism, but they were not Tourism, and they made that point three different times.”

When Michelle Bauer attempted to respond to the question, he cut her off saying he was not taking questions from the council at that time.

He moved on saying he had come with concerns, the first of which addressed the Facebook posts done by Mourning on Sunday, March 19th (the same post Hoefle had referred to earlier in the evening). He said that he had not at first seen the post, but that had gotten reference to it through another alderman, Bauer. He said he was questioning how many additional aldermen had seen the post. He wondered if that fell under the Open Meetings restrictions that say when three or more aldermen are engaged in a conversation, it constitutes a meeting. He said he did not know the answer and was asking for clarification.

This time, he permitted Bauer to respond to the concern. She said that the Illinois Municipal League had addressed this at a workshop for new aldermen. There, she had learned that there were stipulations. If three or more aldermen were engaged in a “direct stream” dialogue (similar to using posts like a chat, where they exchange comments), then it was wrong. But to read a post, like it, or even offer a comment on it was acceptable.

Rainforth moved on to his next point. He said that while he didn’t see it happening on this night, in three years of attending council meetings, he had witnessed emailing and texting going on during the meetings. He reminded the council that doing so did fall under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). He said, “For the new councilmen, for the old council, please take that into consideration when you are in these chambers that it is officially on record as to what is going on. That is the law.”

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He said finally, he wanted clarification about the position of the Logan County Alliance legal team. He noted that city attorney Blinn Bates had “indicated he helped co-council with a law firm in Chicago to draw up the structural procedures going forward with the Logan County Alliance.” Rainforth said this had been reported as a comment from Bates in a local newspaper. Rainforth said that put the city attorney in the “same camp” as the Alliance, and that it put the council in a very precarious position if there was a problem with the Alliance audit and a need to move forward with legal action.

Rainforth said that many people who came to his office had issued a concern about this, and it was causing a problem for the community.

Rainforth began his conclusion saying that a third party audit was necessary, and it was the only way public concern could be addressed in a non-biased way. He added that should they find any impropriety on the LCA part regardless of how small it might be, the council must address it.

It was noted by Bauer and City Administrator Clay Johnson that there are occasions when the council votes to permit the city attorney to represent the city and another party at the same time.

Rainforth said that there were times when that was perfectly acceptable, but he was referring to an instance when there would be the need for a defense council, and was cautioning them that Bates involvement with the LCA should preclude him from any legal actions between the city and the LCA.

[Nila Smith]

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City of Lincoln: Vote to request independent audits of Logan County Alliance and Tourism Bureau passes 5-2

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