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ACLU files lawsuit against city of Clinton

Ben Jacobson, Clinton Herald, Iowa –

CLINTON — The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Citizens for Open Government.

The citizens’ group is dedicated to shining a light on a series of closed session Clinton City Council meetings that culminated in a $4.5 million Medicare billing settlement.

“We think it provides a prime example of how not to run a city in an open fashion,” says ACLU Foundation of Iowa Legal Director Randall Wilson in a statement released this morning. “At some point the citizens of Clinton deserve to learn what happened.”

The City Council voted in 2010 to pay the settlement, rather than face up to a possible $100 million in fines, after a whistleblower claimed that officials improperly billed ambulance charges. Before the settlement was reached, the City Council entered closed session to discuss legal strategy several times. This exception is allowed by Iowa code.

A December request to see records collected during those meetings was denied, with city attorney Jeff Farwell citing attorney/client privilege and Iowa open meetings law exceptions.

Members of CFOG argued that since the legal matter has since been settled, those records belong in the public domain.

Wilson has said that the goal of the lawsuit is to encourage a judge to review these records, and determine what should and should not be considered public record.

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