The city put out a press release today responding to stories that its Loan Board of Review illegally voted by email. Here's a breakdown of the press release, including a major omission:
1. The press release was emailed by Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney, but was titled: "City of Racine Press Release" and was unsigned.
2. The press release noted the Loan Board of Review was created in 1979. It's made up of specific city staff members (and no elected officials).
3. At the Loan Board of Review's June 18, 2009 meeting, the board deferred action on developer Jim Spodick's request to reduce a city loan to wait for a financial analyst's report, according to the release. RacinePost filed an open records request Tuesday for a copy of the analyst's report.
4. The Loan Board of Review's email vote was done to expedite Spodick's sale of the Wilmanor Apartments, according to the press release. It also suggests the vote was in the city's interest, which allows officials to balance the city's interest against the state's open meetings law.
4.5 Records show the loan board voted by email prior to Spodick's claim. The board voted March 25, 2009 to affirm two "electronic polls" to help two local homeowners increase loans. They did the same on Feb. 21, 2008, May 15, 2008, Aug. 21, 2008, and Nov. 20, 2008.
5. The press release then disassociates Spodick's $650,000 claim against the city from the Loan Board of Review's actions. It suggests that Spodick made a deal with former Mayor Gary Becker and that deal is under review as part of a larger review of Spodick's claim.
6. Missing from the press release is any mention of the Loan Board of Review's odd/dishonest/potentially illegal decision to alter the official minutes of the June 18, 2009 meeting to reflect a vote that never occurred.
7. The JT continues to pump this story, which they learned about by reading RacinePost. They've asked the state Attorney General's office for a ruling on the email vote. The AG responded that a decision could take a couple of weeks.
8. This entire incident is potentially embarrassing for the city because it involves senior city officials, including City Attorney Rob Weber, who is well-versed in the state's open meetings law. Weber's involvement makes it an interesting choice to have the city's official response come out of his office.
9. Mayor John Dickert banned email votes in city government today. Since email votes are already illegal (in order for any public body to vote, they have to hold a public meeting), his word should be followed.
10. Since the JT borrowed the first half of this story from RacinePost, we'd recommend Editor Steve Lovejoy direct reporters to take a closer look at the particulars involving Spodick's deal with the city and who made the deal to lower the loan amount. They may specifically want to investigate why Spodick was brought in at all.