A decision on whether to revoke a home day care provider's license has been delayed so the city can get legal advice about whether discussion must be open to the public.
Scott Kuck, attorney for Michelle Knebel, argued Monday that the Aberdeen City Council's discussion whether to revoke her license should be in closed session.
He said state law requires meetings to be open except when another specific law allows the meetings to be closed. And, he said, a section of Aberdeen's home rule charter allows meetings to be closed if information will defame someone. He argued that the information to be discussed would be harmful to his clients.
According to a letter, the city attorney's office is recommending revocation because of events on Dec. 18 involving Knebel's contact with a police officer.
Kuck read a letter from Adam Altman, who is normally the city's attorney, saying that some evidence in the case, including audio and video recordings, aren't public.
Kuck also said that Brown County State's Attorney Kim Dorsett said she would not charge the city with open meetings law violations if the council agreed to go into closed session for the matter.
At least partially in question was that children might be specifically named.
Altman told the council that because he was advocating revoking Knebel's license, he couldn't advise the city on whether it should close the meeting.
Altman said the evidence in the case is controversial, but nonetheless, it is the public's business. He said he believes the discussion is required to be in open session.
Mayor Mike Levsen said he discussed the matter with the attorney general's office, which said discussion over the revocation be made in public. He said he was told the case wouldn't qualify for closed-meeting discussion unless there was pending litigation.
Kuck disagreed, saying there is pending criminal litigation against his clients.
Levsen said he didn't think the whole discussion should be in closed session but offered an option: that the meeting could be closed and opened depending on the information being presented.
Councilwoman Laure Swanson said that, in light of the public vs. closed meeting issue, the case was no different from one where the city revoked a contractor's license, which was discussed in open session.
Councilman Clint Rux recommended that the council get legal advice because the city hasn't dealt with this issue before and because Altman can't give advice on the case.
Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen said she didn't want to continue the case anymore and recommended that, in the interest of the Knebels, the city make a decision.
The council voted 7-2 to continue the issue, with Slaight-Hansen and Swanson voting no.
The earliest the council could deal with the issue is Feb. 28 because there is no meeting next week.
In other business, the council:
·Unanimously approved a resolution of necessity for the Meadow Wood Townhomes, a low-rent housing project proposal through the Aberdeen Housing Authority. About 15 people attended the council meeting about the issue, but did not speak. The council also approved waiving utility hookup and building permit fees for the project. The city zoning board denied the housing authority's request to allow multiple multifamily housing units on the same lot, so Jodi Zueger, with the housing authority, told the council that the plans would have to change and that it was possible that the project could become a big, three-story building rather than town homes. The housing authority plans to apply for state funding for the housing project.
·Approved licenses: taxi cab driver for Kandi Marie Mullner and John Gibbs; residential building contractor for Apex Masonry & Construction; and home day care for Kimberly Byram.
·Approved a request to buy 45 computers by computer services for citywide departments from AOS Solutions for a total of $37,845.