City of Nauvoo officials have repeatedly stated that they were unwilling to release relevant documents, or take any action concerning the Hotel Motel Board, until the Attorney General had rendered an opinion. This week that opinion was delivered to the City by the Attorney General’s Office.
In addition to the requirement that the City release all the documents we requested, we see this opinion having other impacts. Here’s a partial rundown of what we see:
All actions taken by the Hotel Motel Board, operating as an independent body, without elected officials approval them, should be invalid. This would include:
- Any action that involved utilization of public funds. They have no authority to spend public funds.
- Entering into any agreements, contracts or relationships, such as contracts for services (ie website development, advertising, employment/contractor agreements).
- Making any policy decisions without official approval.
- Sponsoring of events and activities that were a conflict of interest for public officials in violation of municipal code.
In addition, there are serious questions raised by the insistence the City has shown to combine a City Public Body with a private body (the Chamber of Commerce). We have raised this issue in the past, and were told the Hotel Motel Board is independent of the City. Since that illusion has been removed, it should be clear that these bodies cannot collude in the manner previously allowed. Any members of the Chamber of Commerce attending a Hotel Motel Board meeting should be afforded the same opportunity to participate in discussion as any other member of the audience, in the time and manner allocated for that input.
The Attorney General Opinion has far-reaching benefits for the citizens of Nauvoo. Major areas of public spending will now be forced to be exposed to public scrutiny, and potential conflicts may be revealed. We are hopeful that the comments from the Mayor and other City Officials about wanting to wait to make changes until they had this opinion were genuine, and that we will now see immediate corrective action. Part of this should be the immediate cessation of any payments made on behalf of the Hotel Motel Board, since they did not have proper approval. A public hearing regarding all contracts, spending, and appointments should be held prior to any utilization of public funds occurs. We have been raising these issues for months, others have pointed out past concerns with how the Hotel Motel Board was operated, and there has been a willful insistence to continue until forced to change. This opinion should bring that change.
It is also interesting that the responses the City has provided to the Attorney General’s questions (utilizing advice from the City Attorney, and often written by the City Attorney) were found to not be valid arguments. We will be looking at the costs associated with these City Attorney services.
We are currently reviewing all actions taken by the Hotel Motel Board for the last five years, with emphasis on the current fiscal year. This will allow the public a better understanding of what must be done now to unravel the mess. In addition, it will make clear if improper payments have been made by the City (to individuals or vendors without a public hearing or approval). We have requested additional documents to allow for a full evaluation. We will publish an item by item break-down as we complete our analysis.
This opinion was not limited to the Hotel Motel Board, but supported all our claims about failure to provide access to documents and information.