The public bickering over who illegally taped (and then leaked) a private conference call between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city aldermen misses the larger point: The call itself was illegal.

It wasn’t the first one either.

Since at least March, Lightfoot and her aides have held similar “informational updates” with aldermen about City Hall’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and, more recently, about its handling of local protests stemming from the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police.

“These updates were arranged and carried out solely for the administration to convey information about the status of COVID-related efforts and field questions on those efforts,” according to a statement from the mayor’s spokesperson. “For a meeting to be subject to the Open Meetings Act, it must include deliberation (for example, legislative debate) and/or action (for example, a vote), which did not occur on these calls.”

Lightfoot surely knows better than that. So do aldermen, who by law are required to complete an online training course on OMA, administered by the attorney general’s office.

Here’s a refresher: The Open Meetings Act says citizens have a right to attend “all meetings at which any business of a public body is discussed or acted upon in any way,” except under limited and specific circumstances. Even if those circumstances exist, a meeting can’t be closed to the public without a majority vote, taken in an open meeting.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, the Better Government Association asked a judge to order the City Council to follow the law. 

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