Executive Session - Did the Council Decide?
A review of the Coeur d'Alene City Council's approved minutes for the March 7, 2006, meeting does not reflect any public discussions or motions relating to sewer connections in Fernan Village.
The minutes, however, do show the Council going into executive session twice. The first executive session was from 7 p.m. until 7:18 p.m. under authority of Idaho Code 67-2345C (To conduct deliberations concerning labor negotiations or to acquire an interest in real property which is not owned by a public agency.) According to the minutes, that session was attended by the Mayor, the City Council, the City Administrator, the Deputy City Administrator and City Attorney. Matters discussed were those of labor negotiations. Based on the section cited, this executive session was not likely the one concerning sewer connections in Fernan.
The second executive session was from 8:19 p.m. until 9:08 p.m. under authority of Idaho Code 67-2345F (To consider and advise its legal representatives in pending litigation or where there is a general public awareness of probable litigation.) According to the minutes, that session was attended by the Mayor, the City Council, the City Administrator, the Deputy City Administrator and City Attorney. Matters discussed were those of litigation. It seems likely this executive session was the one in which Fernan Village sewer connections were discussed. However, the minutes clearly state, "No action was taken and the Council returned to regular session at 9:08 p.m." The minutes reflect that immediately after returning to regular session, there being no further business to conduct, Council member Edinger offered a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Council member McEvers, the motion carried (no vote recorded), and the meeting adjourned at 9:08 p.m.
At this point it is relevant to examine the Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting's minutes of March 21, 2006. Under that meeting's Consent Calendar, 1tem 1, the minutes of the Council's March 7 meeting were approved with no changes made.
The final paragraph of The Spokesman-Review's news story noted that, "Deputy City Attorney Warren Wilson didn't attend the March 7 meeting..." This is somewhat confusing, because the Council's minutes of that meeting note that the City Attorney (Mike Gridley) was present. Was Mike Gridley present in the executive session on March 7? If so, then Wilson's non-attendance isn't an issue. If Gridley was not present, then which Deputy City Attorney was present at the executive session in which matters of litigation were discussed? It would have been difficult "To consider and advise its legal representatives in pending litigation..." if no legal representative was present. The newspaper story should have clarified this important point.
The real issue, however, is when did the City Council make the decision reported in the article? Was the decision made in an open public meeting? Idaho Code 67-2342 (3) clearly states "No executive session may be held for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decision." Yet as reported, "Deputy City Administrator Jon Ingalls said the City Council made the decision in a March 7 closed-door meeting..."
On August 23, 2005, August 23, the Idahoans for Openness in Government and The Spokesman-Review sponsored a public workshop on the Idaho Open Meetings Law and the Idaho Public Records Law. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Deputy Attorney General William van Tagen spoke at the workshop. The Coeur d'Alene Mayor and City Council were not present. Too bad.