Metro-East News

Belleville officials refuse to release city attorney’s report on Lindenwood housing

Belleville City Attorney Garrett Hoerner has finished a report addressing questions about whether Mayor Mark Eckert’s administration properly handled Lindenwood University-Belleville’s student housing issues, but city officials aren’t releasing the report.

Hoerner completed the report this week in response to questions raised by Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner on Oct. 5.

Buettner said he could not release the report because of attorney-client privilege. He declined further comment.

Eckert also declined to release the report. He said he could not comment on it in detail but said he believes “all the questions have been answered.”

Hoerner could not immediately be reached for comment. The BND has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Hoerner’s report.

Buettner, who lives next to Lindenwood students, wanted Hoerner to review how the Lindenwood students were allowed to live in homes for years without the college obtaining special-use zoning permits for them. He said citations should have been issued.

Buettner also wanted to know from Hoerner what liability the city had if there was a “tragedy” at one of the homes where Lindenwood had not obtained a special-use permit.

Eckert has said the homes were inspected by city officials before students moved into them.

For the past four City Council meetings, residents who live near Lindenwood have complained about the number of students who reside in their neighborhoods.

Lindenwood’s request for special-use permits for more than 50 homes and apartment buildings will be heard at 7 p.m. Wednesday by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Meanwhile, Buettner and two other City Council members, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White and Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti, have called for a special City Council meeting for 7 p.m. Monday to discuss whether St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly should investigate the matter. If the mayor doesn’t call for a meeting, then three aldermen can request one.

To reach a quorum on the 16-member panel, nine aldermen must show up to take any votes.

Don Craven, legal counsel to the Illinois Press Association, said if four or fewer aldermen appear, they can discuss city business but can’t take a vote. Craven said if five to eight aldermen show up, they are not permitted to discuss city business in a group of that size.