CLINTON — A trial on the enforcement actions related to the city of Clinton not releasing records of closed sessions has been continued.
In a summary judgment issued Tuesday, the city was found to have violated the state open records law in not releasing the records of a series of six closed meetings held regarding the lawsuit filed over the ambulance service billing practices. The Wednesday trial was to present arguments on the penalties and enforcement.
The EMS billing lawsuit was settled with the city paying a $4.5 million fine and penalty for the Medicare and Medicaid billing practices.
The Iowa ACLU took the case on behalf of a citizens group known as Citizens for an Open Government.
The parties met for two hours with the judge in the case while spectators waited in the courtroom and then announced the trial has been continued until Jan. 30. The judge’s order states the delay is for the city to procure additional witnesses and to conduct settlement negotiations in light the summary judgment ruling.
An attorney for the citizens group said one the issues of the trial is whether the city knowingly violated the statute.
A leader of Citizens for an Open Government, Ed O’Neill, spoke to the media in the parking lot leaving the courthouse and said the group wanted injunctive relief, a fine and attorney fees. After the session with the judge, O’Neill said the discussion is about who will pay the fine and fees. He said his group wants individual council members to have to pay while the city is offering to pay. He said that costs the taxpayers. O’Neill said someone should be held accountable and that’s the council members and not the taxpayers.
He estimated the attorneys' fees would be $50,000 and then whatever fine the judge may impose. He estimated that split among the council members would be about a year’s council salary.
O’Neill was recently elected to the council.
Clinton City Attorney Jeff Farwell has not been available for comment developments or whether the city will consider an appeal of the judge’s partial summary judgment.