Update: Mayor Weisner agreed late this afternoon to allow the City Council to choose who should investigate Planned Parenthood’s dealings with the City. Democracy lives! Of course, this means we’ll have to watch very closely how things develop. Be prepared to visit the City Council again when they next meet, September 11.
Early Wednesday morning, Mayor Thomas Weisner assured the assembled pro-life citizens of Aurora and surrounding communities that an open, independent, thorough investigation would be conducted into Planned Parenthood’s dealings with the City.
Unfortunately, the attorney chosen by the mayor to conduct this investigation, Richard Martens, is unsuitable. Moreover, the mayor has informed the City Council that the investigation will be completed by September 13.
Today’s Aurora Beacon reports that 3rd Ward Alderman Stephanie Kifowit has already written the mayor to say that she does not believe Martens can conduct and independent investigation because of his close ties to a law firm that represents the City in the very planning and development issues under investigation. We also have word that objections to Martens have been sent to the Mayor by Aldermen Rick Lawrence (4th Ward), Stephanie Kifowit (3rd Ward), Richard Irvin (Alderman-at-Large) and Chris Beykirch (8th Ward). Moments ago I likewise wrote the mayor and aldermen to ask for a different investigator, approved by the unanimous City Council, with no deadline on the investigation. The text of my letter follows, as well as the text of a letter to me from my attorney, Thomas Brejcha, which I enclosed with my letter. PDFs of my letter, Mr. Brejcha’s are Alderman Lawrence’s available too.
August 31, 2007 To the Honorable Thomas Weisner and Aldermen of the City of Aurora, On behalf of Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, I wish to thank you all for your diligent attention to the concerns of the citizens of Aurora and surrounding communities during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. I was encouraged to see that the Mayor and the City Council take those concerns seriously, and to receive assurances from the Mayor that the investigation into Planned Parenthood’s dealings with the City would be independent and open. However, I cannot conclude that the attorney chosen by the Mayor to conduct this investigation, Richard Martens, is a suitable choice. As a former partner in the law firm of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, which regularly represents the City in the very planning and development issues which will be under investigation—as well as the negotiations surrounding the ongoing prayer vigil and protest at the Planned Parenthood site—Mr. Martens has a clear conflict of interest. Moreover, he shares an address with said firm at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 1660 in Chicago, and evidently rents office space from them. I also understand that Mr. Martens’ investigation is set to conclude by September 13. I cannot reconcile this with the Mayor’s assurances to me personally, before the assembled crowd of citizens early Wednesday morning, that there would be no deadline set on the investigation. I know you all agree that this investigation must be conducted in the most independent manner possible. The slightest doubt as to the independence of the investigator—and our doubts are far from slight—will cast a cloud of controversy on the entire process. Therefore, on behalf of the hundreds of Aurora residents who attended the City Council meeting Tuesday, and the thousands who have protested, prayed, called and written in opposition to Planned Parenthood’s activities here, I must respectfully request that a different investigator be chosen and no deadlines be imposed on the investigation. Moreover, I request that any proposed investigator be approved by a unanimous vote of the City Council. This approval should take place at a City Council meeting where the matter has been legally placed on the agenda. Aurora citizens deserve to know how their Aldermen vote on this issue. This alone will assure the public that a truly independent, thorough, open investigation has been conducted, and that the City of Aurora is a place where honesty and integrity are cherished. Yours sincerely, Eric J. Scheidler Pro-Life Action League Families Against Planned Parenthood cc: Aurora Beacon News
Here’s attorney Tom Brejcha’s letter to the City’s attorney, which I enclosed with my letter:
August 31, 2007 Dear Mr. Lance Malina: I am writing you to express the profound concern of my clients, Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, et al, over the alleged “independence” of the investigator whom your client, the Mayor of Aurora, plans to appoint to look into the apparent fraud perpetrated by Planned Parenthood and its subsidiary, Gemini Development, on Aurora’s citizens in applying for an occupancy permit. We have found that the proposed appointee, Mr. Richard Martens, occupies a law office within the same suite of offices occupied by your law firm. As we are currently in an adversarial position with your law firm in the federal district court, there is no way that a lawyer who offices down the hallway from you and Mr. Barnicle who are defending the lawsuit we brought for our clients to redress flagrant violations of their First Amendment rights could even remotely be deemed “independent.” Moreover, as your law firm is Aurora’s general outside counsel responsible for defending the city in connection with entitlement proceedings, such as zoning and licensure disputes, how could someone so closely related to your law firm be expected to take a neutral viewpoint when the very integrity of Aurora’s entitlement process — as pursued in this instance — is now being questioned and challenged. The issues to be addressed in the city’s investigation require a thorough, fully objective examination of their entire process by which Gemini Development sought its certificate of occupancy — a process during which applicants are routinely asked about expected users of the facility in question. Here, it’s vital that the investigation include thorough questioning of all persons involved as to whether, by whom, and to whom such questions were asked here, and what, if any, responses were made. The responses so far disclosed that were made in written form are patently false and misleading. Sincerely, Thomas Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society