A new private corporation being formed by the city to benefit Quincy’s hydropower project will not be subject to the Open Meetings Act or the Freedom of Information Act.
However, in the interest of open government, the city will probably act as if those laws apply, according to Mayor John Spring.
“I feel strongly that those should still apply,” Spring said in an interview Tuesday — a day after the City Council’s Finance Committee learned about the proposal to form a private “C” corporation as a means to qualify for a federal grant reimbursing 30 percent of the $100 million hydropower project at Lock and Dam 21.
A fact sheet distributed to Finance Committee members contained the following paragraph:
“A private corporation will not be directly subject to the numerous Illinois ‘sunshine’ laws like the Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act, Local Records Act, etc. Nevertheless, there could be a significant benefit in terms of public confidence in the project (while also avoiding nuisance lawsuits) by acting as if these Acts did apply to the corporation to the fullest extent possible.”
Spring said he will push to make sure the sunshine laws apply to the corporation whenever possible.
“The idea of going to the ‘C’ corporation is not an attempt, by any means, to hold meetings where people don’t know what we’re doing,” Spring said. “The idea is so we can qualify for the 30 percent” reimbursement from the federal government.
In recent months the Finance Committee has held some hydropower discussions behind close doors because of an allowable exception to the Illinois Open Meetings Act involving the establishment of a public utility.
However, Spring said his hope is for the city to be as open as it can be in its dealings involving the hydropower project. He said some meetings may need to be closed to discuss certain matters, such as personnel or the acquisition of property. But “that wasn’t our intent” in forming the private corporation.
He said forming the corporation simply gives Quincy “a wonderful opportunity” to secure a major portion of the financing needed to carry out the project.