Joliet mayor wants investigation of council leak
Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante on Tuesday announced that he has asked for an investigation into how a “highly sensitive” city document got into the hands of the other side in the Evergreen Terrace legal case.
The Will County state’s attorney’s office is looking into the situation, an office spokesman confirmed.
It’s not clear whether a law was broken in the latest twist in the Evergreen Terrace case, which has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court and is now in its ninth year as Joliet tries to wrest control of the low-income housing complex from private owners.
But the situation does suggest political intrigue and the possibility that a council member fed information to the other side in what may be the biggest legal battle that Joliet has ever waged.
The document alleged to have been leaked was an overview of a pending settlement between Joliet and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was a co-defendant with the Evergreen Terrace owners before dropping out of the case in November.
“This shameful act is an unprecedented betrayal to the residents of Joliet who in good faith elected us to represent them and their best interests on the council,” Giarrante said, reading from a prepared statement at the end of Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The mayor’s comments were suggestive enough that Councilman Robert O’Dekirk, an outspoken critic of the city’s position in the Evergreen
Terrace case, felt the need to also make a statement.
“I welcome the investigation,” O’Dekirk told reporters after the meeting, adding that he did not leak the document. “I don’t know who did.”
He also said Giarrante is not the only one to want the investigation — the council met in closed session Monday and agreed to ask the state’s attorney to investigate the matter.
“This is something we talked about and agreed as a council that it should be investigated to see who did it,” O’Dekirk said, adding that the mayor was “wrong” to announce the investigation before the council found out what happened. “It seemed to me that he violated executive session again by doing this.”
Speaking about matters discussed in closed session is typically not illegal. Municipal officials generally consider it unethical to reveal matters discussed in such sessions, but only certain topics can be legally discussed behind closed doors, including litigation in which a public body is involved.
Charles Pelkie, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office, said Giarrante has “asked us to look into whether anything illegal occurred as to the leak of this information.”
Giarrante said a document related to the city’s settlement with HUD was provided to the owners of Evergreen Terrace after it was distributed to council members at a closed session in August.
Joliet is trying to acquire Evergreen Terrace, a 356-apartment complex for low-income residents that is federally subsidized but privately owned. The city contends that the complex has been poorly managed, leading to substandard living conditions and crime.