The second installment by Terry O’Neill, former alderman and now free to discuss what happened in the secret meetings in 2011 about the Hummel property lawsuit.
Part 1 found Here
What’s the Big Deal?
“After the insurance company’s attorneys’ presentation of the Geneva Ridge’s settlement ‘Deal’ and the discussion that followed, the insurance company’s attorney asked the city council if he should continue to pursue a settlement with Geneva Ridge. There was a general agreement vote among all the aldermen that he should continue to pursue a settlement with Geneva Ridge
[Note: This was not a city council approval of the ‘Deal’, in fact at no time while I was on the city council did it ever approve the ‘Deal’ or any settlement agreement with Geneva Ridge in, or outside, of a closed session].
Then almost immediately after the vote (while still in closed session) the scramble to meet the deadline started.
Several of the aldermen gathered around the mayor to discuss plans, and to set up a time table to meet the deadline on the Geneva Ridge’s comprehensive change request of Aug. 31th. The time was short and they needed to announce and schedule a public hearing; set up a procedure to amend the comprehensive plan; get it approved by the Plan Commission; prepare the ordinance; and have it read at two meetings prior to voting. When a tentative plan had been outlined, the council reconvened in open session and voted on the Lake Geneva Firefighters 3-year contract; however, to the best of my recollection now, and as I recorded it back years ago, no vote was taken on the Geneva Ridge issue after the closed session ended and the city council had reconvened in open session. Even though the clerk was apparently instructed to add an open session vote to the minutes (which he did), none actually ever occurred. Furthermore, when the minutes were being approved at the next meeting a discussion arose about the minutes and the city clerk had the opportunity to comment about the minutes, and made his feelings clear about the minutes, when he said ‘These are your minutes not mine and whatever you want in them is up to you.’
This statement, and his tone of voice, bothered me, so even though I had gotten my comments added into the minute, I abstained from approving them. Only sometime later, when I was looking over the minutes and recalling the meeting and the closed session which preceded it did I realize that in the confusion of that day, the city council had never voted on the Geneva Ridge Issue upon returning to the open session.
Back to the ‘Deal’ itself. Since the insurance company’s lawyer had said on several occasions that if certain things happened (i.e. revelation of the $2.1-million-dollar payment), or did not happen (meet the deadline of Aug. 31), then the ‘Deal was off. This information told me that there was for sure an actual ‘Deal’ and that these elements were part of it, or at least critical to it.
Knowing that the whole Hummel/Geneva Ridge law suits started over verbal deals that the city failed to live up to, this ‘Deal’ had to be in writing, and Geneva Ridge required assurances that the city’s portion and the insurance portion would be made/assured before Geneva Ridge would agree. This was partly verified in the closed session by the insurance company’s attorney’s comment referring to the fact that even if the Geneva Ridge comprehensive plan change request was passed by the city council, “Geneva Ridge could still not settle.”
That told me a couple of things.
Geneva Ridge had not yet signed or agreed to the ‘Deal’, but would wait to see the results of the city council’s vote. Therefore, Geneva Ridge’s agreement to the settlement was dependent on the Geneva Ridge’s comprehensive plan change request being passed by the city council, not just having the city council vote on the issue. Despite the fact that there is a prohibition on contract zoning in Wisconsin that makes it illegal to make zoning changes in exchange for other considerations, the contract had to be based on the city having a vote, not on the outcome of the vote being in their favor, otherwise it would be prima facia contract zoning. The fact that the insurance attorney said that Geneva Ridge was not committed to approval if the vote failed or passed, but that he felt that they would honor their commitment, told me that Geneva Ridge had not signed on to, and would not commit until after the vote when they would be assured the outcome of the vote before signing. The third leg of the ‘Deal’ would be to assure Geneva Ridge that if they signed they would receive the $2.1 million dollars from the insurance company. This could be done by the insurance company pre-signing the agreement, thus making the $2.1 million available to Geneva Ridge on their approval, which if true could explain the insurance company’s extreme concern about the $2.1 million dollars not being made public.
The players sat back and waited for the comprehensive plan vote, but it was understood, without it being formally said, that the ‘Deal’ was that Geneva Ridge would drop the law suit in exchange for Lake Geneva’s passage of the Geneva Ridge’s comprehensive plan change request and also receive $2.1 million from the city’s insurance company. That is what transpired in the first Geneva Ridge settlement ‘closed Session’, as seen through the eyes and mind of an alderman in that session.”
Editor: Mr. O’Neill makes his case for a contract zoning indictment very clearly and succinctly