Although its request to meet in closed session with the Hannibal City Council was rejected, it didn't stop the Hannibal Board of Public Works Board from taking action during its own special meeting behind closed doors at City Hall on Thursday night.
Although its request to meet in closed session with the Hannibal City Council was rejected, it didn’t stop the Hannibal Board of Public Works Board from taking action during its own special meeting behind closed doors at City Hall on Thursday night.
While the reason given for the closed session was the discussion of litigation — one of the reason allowed by the state for a body to close its meeting — neither Bob Stevenson, general manager of the HBPW, or the HBPW’s special attorney, Robert Brundage, were willing to disclose many details when the approximately three-hour gathering in the Mayor’s Conference Room broke up shortly after 9 p.m.
“We were in a closed meeting under lawyer-client confidential privilege,” said Stevenson, pausing in the City Hall lobby. “I can’t talk about what was said or we lose our confidentiality. Can’t do it. This is pretty serious stuff.”
While “litigation” is a broad topic, and could apply to any number of situations, the pending 90-day deadline to discontinue the use of ammonia in the water treatment system is a front-running reason for potential litigation. But was the use of chloramines at the heart of Thursday’s meeting?
“I’ve said all I can say. I’m sorry. You’ll just have to wait, like at Christmas,” said Stevenson with a brief chuckle.
While the specific topic wasn’t revealed, Stevenson acknowledged that the HBPW Board did take action that will become known sooner than later.
“We came to a decision. I can’t talk about it,” he said. “At some point in the future we’ll make press releases and everybody will know what we’re doing, and it won’t be long.”
Asked Friday if a time line has been established for an announcement, Stevenson offered a one-word answer – no.
The start of the HBPW’s special meeting coincided with the start of the City Council’s rescheduled meeting just a few feet away in Council Chambers. At the conclusion of the Council’s open session, a closed session, requested by the HBPW, was on the agenda. At approximately 7:45 p.m. the Council voted unanimously not to go into closed session since it would not have legal representation. The city’s attorney, James Lemon, would not represent the city due to a potential conflict of interest. Lemon has also provided legal counsel to the BPW, but not in the matter discussed during the BPW’s closed session Thursday.
The HBPW Board, which had recessed in anticipation of meeting with the Council, went back behind closed doors upon learning of the Council’s decision to not go into closed session.
Asked Friday if the Council’s decision not to go into closed session impacted the BPW Board’s actions, Stevenson declined to comment.
Allowed to sit in on the HBPW Board’s closed session was Councilman Colin Welch, who remained there for approximately 40 minutes. Asked as Welch left if he departed on his own, or if he was asked to leave, Welch indicated he left when it became apparent a decision was imminent.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org