Evanston alderman gathered around a model of the proposed Fountain Square tower last February during a closed-door meeting in the aldermanic library and discussed possible city acquisition of the existing Fountain Square building.

Aldermen voted in executive session late Monday to release minutes of the February gathering, while denying claims by Robert Atkins of Northwestern Neighbors that the secret session had violated the state open meetings act.

During the February session the aldermen discussed the possibility of collaborating with the developer of the project at the north end of the block to acquire the Fountain Square building at the south end and demolish it so the space could be used to expand the city-owned Fountain Square plaza.

The release of the Feb. 5 meeting minutes follows by about a month release of minutes from a March closed-door meeting the aldermen held with the developers

The March meeting minutes included references to the February meeting, which had not previously been known to have involved discussion of the tower project.

At the February meeting at least two aldermen — Melissa Wynne and Anjana Hansen — voiced objections to the proposed tower height, which at that point was given as 52 stories.

But others, including Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Edmund Moran, Elizabeth Tisdahl, suggested they were open to considering the project.

The minutes as released by the council have some sections blacked out or redacted.

They include numbers related to the possible cost of buying the Fountain Square building and an apparently unrelated discussion about a possible new site for the Civic Center.

During the public portion of Monday’s council meeting Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said the assistant state attorney general who concluded the March meeting violated the open meetings act hadn’t even read the minutes and based her decision “on hearsay and supposition” about what had been discussed.

“This council has nothing to hide,” Bernstein said, suggesting the aldermen vote in open session to release the minutes.

But city attorney Herb Hill suggested that they should discuss the issue in executive session instead.

Atkins had called on the council to release the February minutes and tape recordings of both meetings saying it would “dispel a cloud of suspicion and doubt” hanging over the council.

The newly-released meeting minutes are available as an attachment below.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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