Lightfoot reminds us elected officials meeting in secret can’t be trusted

Elected officials, even ones who profess to be reformers, such as Lightfoot come to believe the government belongs to them and not the people.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has discovered that Chicago aldermen cannot be trusted, even in secret City Council meetings she calls to keep the public in the dark.

In a story first reported by this newspaper’s Fran Spielman, Lightfoot accused Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) of “illegally” taping her May 31 during a secret conference call with aldermen and “leaking” a profanity-laced exchange between herself and Lopez.

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“I think you’re 100 percent full of s----, is what I think,” Lightfoot said when Lopez complained at length that the city wasn’t doing enough to police Chicago neighborhoods during protests and looting.

“Well, f--- you then,” Lopez replied.

When an audio of the exchange was released to the Sun-Times, the mayor became indignant.

“First of all, if you heard the entirety of the conversation …,” the mayor complained, forgetting that she’s the one who wanted it all kept secret.

“The conversation went for an hour and a half,” she continued. “Unfortunately, one of the aldermen, and I think we know who it is — illegally taped and then shared only that portion of the conversation that served his purposes.”

Lopez denied sharing the tape recording but basically admitted the meeting was illegal, a violation of the Illinois Open Meeting Act, because all 50 aldermen and about eight staff members were allegedly involved in the conference call.

The Better Government Association has filed a lawsuit claiming the meeting violated the law.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced he is investigating.

Here is what the law states:

“It is the public policy of this State that public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business.”

There are exceptions to the Open Meetings Act large enough to drive a multimillion-dollar consulting contract through, as many municipal attorneys could tell you. But you first have to meet in public, vote in public to meet in secret, and create a reasonable excuse for violating the law. It’s easily done but the City Council didn’t bother to do it.

Elected leaders in Illinois have violated the law and ignored lawsuits and protests by public interest groups for decades.

That’s because they can use government attorneys, paid for by you, to defend themselves in court, and even if they lose, all they usually receive is a mild rebuke from a judge.

Don’t do it again or we will tell you, don’t do it again.

Elected officials may be found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,500 and imprisonment of up to 30 days. But that just doesn’t happen.

Criminal action must be brought by the local state’s attorney. If you see Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx leaping into action against Lightfoot on this one, let me know.

This should be a slam dunk. You not only have public confessions by both the mayor and an alderman stating that they violated the law but 49 more aldermen who are witnesses.

The fact is elected officials, even ones who profess to be reformers, such as Lightfoot, an attorney, come to believe the government belongs to them and not the people.

“These are rough and difficult times,” the mayor said. “We ought to be able to have candid conversations. … Now, aldermen don’t feel secure or safe coming together with their colleagues because of one individual who decided to illegally tape a conversation that was intended to be a private conversation among all of us. Shame on them. Shame on him.”

Shame on you.

You work for the taxpayers. The public. Elected officials are our employees and there should be no secret meetings. Why? As the mayor stated, aldermen can’t be trusted.


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