Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul ruled Tuesday, Aug. 1, that Winnetka’s Village Council did not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act during its review of the Ishbia family’s request to consolidate four properties along the lakefront on Dec. 6 of last year.
The ruling from Raoul halts potential ligation against the village.
Peter Friedman, Winnetka’s village attorney, announced Raoul’s decision at the council’s Aug. 1 meeting, saying that the attorney general ruled “in the village’s favor on all matters.” According to Friedman, a challenge was filed with the attorney general’s office arguing that the council did not have proper grounds to move into closed session at the Dec. 6 meeting.
During that meeting, Winnetka trustees unanimously voted to approve a plan to consolidate four properties along Lake Michigan — 195, 203, 205 and 209 Sheridan Road — as previously reported by The Record. The plan to join the properties was brought forward by the Ishbia family as part of its large-scale project to demolish the existing homes and build a new one.
CLIC HERE TO READ THE RECORD’S FULL COVERAGE OF THE DEC. 6 MEETING
After heavy discussion and hearing public comments from several residents, the board opted to move into closed session at the Dec. 6 meeting before voting on the resolution. According to minutes from the meeting, the board was in closed session for roughly one hour.
“In an extended closed session, the board engaged in a productive and creative discussion on how to navigate the resolution in order to protect the village from ligation,” Friedman said at the Aug. 1 meeting.
Friedman said that during the Dec. 6 meeting residents opposing the resolution to consolidate the properties, as well as representatives of the Ishbia family, threatened the village with ligation in open session.
Petitioners argued that the Winnetka council “did not have the grounds to go into closed session” at that meeting, Friedman said, adding that they also argued that “once in closed session, the council had “strayed off of the authorized topics and had conducted illegal discussions in closed sessions.”
Recording of Winnetka Village Council meeting on Dec. 6, 2022.
The attorney general “explicitly disagreed with both of those arguments,” Friedman said, noting that Raoul’s office found “that the board complied completely with the Open Meetings Act in all respects.”
The Opens Meeting Act allows for closed session discussions related to litigation “when the public body finds that an action is probable or imminent.”
Raoul’s office reviewed the entire recordings of both open and closed sessions, according to Friedman.
Ishiba’s plans for the properties along the lakefront also include a 2020 property exchange agreement with the Winnetka Park District, as first reported by The Record. That agreement has been controversial among community members, and even Winnetka Village Council members.
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