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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Joke - April 1st Deadline to Post Elected Officials' Emails on Website

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly passed Public Act 98-0930, requiring all units of local government (municipalities, park districts, libraries, townships) and school districts to post an email address or some other mechanism on their website to allow members of the public to contact their elected officials.  The law was effective January 1st, but public bodies have 90 days to comply. That deadline (April 1st) is approaching, so we thought it would be worth a reminder post.

There are a few options for complying with the new law.  For example, a government could post one universal email address (such as villageboard@nameofmunicipality.com) where users can contact their elected officials. Alternatively, a government could post individual email addresses for each of the elected officials.  A third option could be use of a "contact us" form that allows users to select a particular elected official as the recipient of the email.

Whatever option you choose, make sure that the website information is easily available or searchable from the government's home page by use of a hyperlink.

Only 8 days left, so make sure you update your website by April 1st!  No April Fools joke here.

Here's a summary of the Q&A we posted a couple of months ago about the new law:

1.   What is the deadline for compliance?

Government bodies subject to the new law must comply within 90 days of the effective date, or by April 1, 2015

2.  Are townships subject to the new law?

Yes.  The new law specifically applies to school districts and "units of local government."  Units of local government are defined in state law to include "counties, municipalities, townships, special districts, and units designated as units of local government by law."  That would also include park districts, library districts, and other special districts and local government units. The law does exempt those units of government that serve a population of 1,000,000 or more, however.

3.  We don't have a website - does the law still apply to us?

The law only applies to units of local government and school districts that have a website.  There is no requirement that you establish a website if you don't already have one.

4.  We don't have a website, but we do have a government Facebook page - do we need to post the information on that site?

No, the new law excludes social media and networking sites from the definition of "Internet website."

5.  Our elected officials do not have official government email addresses - they all use gmail or some other personal email service. Do we have to post their personal email addresses on the website?

The law does not mandate that you post individual email addresses of elected officials (official or personal) - one of the alternative methods of complying with the law would be to set up a single, uniform email address where members of the public can contact the elected officials.  For example, you could set up an email address called electedofficials@district.com (or some other variation) and post a hyperlink to the email address or a link to that information on the home page of your website.

6.  We already have a "Contact Us" form on our home page - will that work?

That would be an alternative mechanism to comply with the law if (1) the "contact us" form allows the user to select the governing board (i.e., "village board" or "school board") as a recipient of the electronic communication and (2) a hyperlink to the information or the form is located on the home page of the website.

7.  We already include our elected officials' emails on the "village board" page of our website - do we need to do anything else to comply?

You would need to add a hyperlink on the home page of your website that directs users to the village board page where they can find the emails.

8.  We are home rule - are we exempt?

No, the law contains a home-rule preemption, meaning that home rule governments are subject to the law.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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