CHICAGO (CBS) — There was backlash at City Hall on Tuesday after a meeting between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Anjanette Young was suddenly canceled.
Young is the woman who was handcuffed naked and terrified when her home was wrongly raided by Chicago Police coming up on two years ago. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, Young’s attorney was blaming the mayor for the fact that the planned meeting fell through.
Attorney Keenan Saulter said the mayor did not agree to Young’s terms.
A representative for Mayor Lightfoot said the mayor still hopes to meet with Young. But many aldermen – especially members of the Progressive Caucus – were skeptical, and feared that when it comes to transparency, this is all a step backward.
The botched Chicago Police raid on Young’s home led to a public apology from Mayor Lightfoot, and a request from the mayor to meet with Young and her attorney.
The wheels were in motion over the weekend. On Sunday, Saulter sent a letter to Lightfoot, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, and seven aldermen, proposing a private meeting with the mayor at Young’s church, Progressive Baptist in Armour Square, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday – followed by a public forum with the mayor, the aldermen, and Brown. Saulter later invited all 50 aldermen to attend the public forum.
But on Monday afternoon, Mayor Lightfoot began expressing reservations.
The mayor expressed concerns about the invitation for a public forum with all 50 aldermen, pointing not only to the pandemic, but possible issues with the state’s Open Meetings Act.
“We have very specific guidance that’s been out now for several months about the size of gatherings. Fifty people-plus in a setting would I think violate the public health guidance that we’ve given out,” she said.
Saulter’s invitation for the meeting proposed a strict mask mandate for the public forum, except for when someone is speaking at the church podium, as well as requiring people to stay at least 10 feet apart from each other.
Aside from the COVID-19 concerns, Lightfoot said holding a public forum with all 50 members of the City Council raises some legal issues, such as whether such a gathering would violate the Open Meetings Act, and whether it could present a possible conflict of interests for aldermen.
According to the state’s Open Meetings Act, any gathering of at least 14 aldermen to discuss city business would be considered an official meeting, and would require the city to provide advance notice, an agenda, and an opportunity for public comment.
In a statement later Monday afternoon, Saulter dismissed the mayor’s concerns about the Open Meetings Act as “legally invalid given the City Council nor the Office of the Mayor attempted to convene the entire City Council.”
Saulter sent aldermen an email saying the meeting was off. He added: “This was an opportunity for transparency. The mayor seems intent on playing politics.”
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) agreed.
“They’re playing games, and we could have had this meeting,” Taylor said.
Taylor and other aldermen with whom Kozlov spoke believe there were ways to work around the mayor’s concerns.
“I think she could have done this,” said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd). “I think that the excuses that are being used – and I do believe that they are excuses, to use the Open Meetings Act, for example – this was going to be a public forum, so we were not a meeting in the closed room.”
When asked if she believed the mayor’s claims of wanting transparency, Rodriguez said, “No.”
Rodriguez pointed to a letter she wrote asking for an independent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. Instead, she said, Mayor Lightfoot appointed a former judge to look into Young’s case.
“If the mayor is the person that is appointing somebody, that is not an independent investigation,” Rodriguez said.
Mayor Lightfoot released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: “As the Mayor has said previously, she is eager to meet with and to hear directly from Ms. Young to continue the process of healing. Hopefully such a meeting will be possible soon.”
But no alternate date or plan has been proposed by either side.
Many aldermen are still hoping for a public forum to discuss policing concerns.
In the meantime, Young’s attorney said he is proceeding with a lawsuit against the city.
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