WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Legality of Lee County Vote Questioned

Apr 9, 2014

Questions are being raised about the legality of the Lee County Board’s vote to give money to Keokuk Area Hospital.

Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio

Meeting agendas for government bodies must be published 24-hours in advance.

The original agenda for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting did not include the hospital vote, but during the meeting, it was amended so the hospital’s management team could address the board.

County Attorney Mike Short says amendments are OK if there is an emergency, but he has not seen anything that would suggest that in this situation.

“Unless there is some good cause, some reason that has made this urgent, we should follow that and give 24 hour notice on changes," says Short.

Short says despite that, he does not plan to pursue the issue beyond his own opinion.

He does not believe the board was trying to avoid the open meetings law because everything was done during a public meeting.

Short was not at the meeting Tuesday morning.

He says he was contacted by Board Chairman Ernie Schiller after the meeting.

Schiller says he contacted Short after a newspaper reporter, who was not at the meeting, questioned him about the vote being held.

Duane Fitch heads the firm that is managing Keokuk Area Hospital.

He acknowledged the situation in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

"We understand that there may be a technical concern around the process by which Chairman (Ernie) Schiller and the supervisors included this item on the meeting's agenda and, if that is the case, we have every confidence that any technicality will be remedied promptly to ensure access to these critically important federal matching programs."

The supervisors are expected to finalize the hospital agreement next week.