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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Final 2 Binding PAC Opinions of 2016 (Open Meetings)

In the last two binding opinions of 2016 issued by the Public Access Counselor's office of the Attorney General (PAC), the PAC found two public bodies in violation of the OMA.  With these 2 opinions, the PAC issued 15 binding opinions in 2016 (5 of which were issued in December).

PAC Op. 16-014: Public Body's Advance Notice Rule for Recording Meetings Unreasonable

In PAC Op. 16-014, the Norwood Park Watchdog group filed a complaint with the PAC alleging that the local school district board violated the Open Meetings Act when it prohibited him from recording the board's open session. The board had rejected his request made 10 minutes before the meeting based on a local board policy that required a person to notify the board president or superintendent in advance. Although the board's recording policy was silent on what advance notice was required, the board had applied the policy to require 24 hours advance notice. The board explained that the advance notice was required to ensure that the recording equipment was properly placed to avoid recording the images of students in attendance at a school board meeting.

The PAC rejected the board's arguments and ruled that the school board's "advance notice" requirement for recording board meetings was not reasonable under the OMA. The PAC noted that the board had not cited any compelling reason for requiring advance notice (the PAC did not accept the board's argument that children may be present, instead stating that the board could simply move its meetings if it were concerned about student privacy. In sum, the PAC ordered the board to revise its policy consistent with its opinion. 

PAC Op. 16-015: Public Body's Final Action on Item Not Listed on Agenda Violated OMA

In PAC Op. 16-015, a Village Trustee filed a complaint with the PAC alleging that his Board violated the OMA by voting on an item that was not on the agenda. At a board meeting, one of the board members made a motion to approve a settlement agreement under the agenda item identified as "Old Business." The minutes showed that the Board attorney had cautioned the board that it could not take action on the agreement because it was not on the minutes. Nevertheless, the board took a vote and the motion passed. Not surprisingly, the PAC found the board in violation of the OMA for taking final action on a matter that was not identified on the agenda. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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