Judge orders Clinton officials to release council meeting records

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Clinton, Iowa officials were ordered by a judge to release records from meetings about improper ambulance billings that resulted in a multi-million-dollar legal settlement.

A Clinton firefighter sued the city in 2008, claiming his department was overstating ambulance calls to get more money from Medicare.  The city settled that lawsuit in 2010; and as part of the settlement the city must pay $4.5 million to the federal government within ten years.

A year after the settlement was reached, a few Clinton residents formed a group called Citizens for Open Government, which made an open records request for information distributed during six closed-door city council meetings that dealt with the settlement. They were reportedly trying to figure out what parts of the Iowa Open Meetings Law were violated.

City officials initially refused to release the records.  With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawsuit was filed and the group eventually got those records in the summer of 2013.  However, the request was granted only on the condition that the materials not be shared with the public.  So, the lawsuit remained an active case.

A day before the case was set to go to trial, the judge in the case ordered the city to release the records to the public, making them available for anyone to view.  A representative from the ACLU said the partial summary judgment did not cover whether penalties will be assessed in the case and it did not address attorney fees.  Those were among issues expected to be resolved at trial, which was set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at the Clinton County Courthouse.