(2011-1406_OHare-Northampton_County.pdf) , requiring Council member Tom Dietrich to fork over a note, or its "reasonable facsimile."
Dietrich had scribbled that little missive during an October 6 Council meeting, while Ron Angle was in the middle of announcing that landfill magnate Charles Chrin would make a $2 million contribution to the County for farmland preservation, with the money coming from lot sales at Chrin's planned industrial park. The County's video of the meeting (1:06:00) shows Dietrich writing and handing this note to Ann McHale. She can be heard agreeing with whatever is written.
"Anything you could share with us, Mr. Deitrich?" asked Angle.
"No. That was between he and I," answered McHale, as Dietrich remained mute.
Having been informed that Dietrich had accused Angle in that note of bribery, this freelance reporter filed a Right-to-Know request for the note or a reasonable facsimile the very next day, claiming that when one Council member accuses another of bribery during a public meeting, the public has a right to know about it. Council refused, claiming (1) the note does not exist; (2) if it does, it is not a public record; and (3) if it is a public record, it's exempt.
But the Office of Open Records (2011-1406_OHare-Northampton_County.pdf) disagreed, ordering Dietrich to produce the note, which is what forced Council behind closed doors on December 8, as they decided what to do.
When they emerged from the back room, Council Solicitor Phil Lauer announced that Council had reached a "consensus" and had apparently directed him, behind closed doors, to appeal the Open Records determination. But because the Sunshine Act requires all official actions to be taken during a public meeting, this freelance reporter objected to a perceived violation, as specifically authorized under the open meetings law.
When Council was forced to vote in the open, the supposed "consensus" evaporated. Only Council President John Cusick and Lamont McClure authorized the Solicitor to appeal, with Dietrich and McHale abstaining.