One of our blog readers forwarded a copy of a recent advisory opinion issued by the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General's office (PAC) ruling in favor of a public body. Specifically, the PAC found that a library board’s agenda item "sufficiently described" the general subject matter of the item being presented for approval to the board, in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. 2017 PAC 46368.
At one of its board meetings, the library board approved the hire of a consulting firm, based on an item on the agenda, stating, “Hire consultant - Action Required.” The agenda item immediately preceding that item stated, “Determine not to exceed amount for community engagement consultant - Action Required.” In her complaint to the PAC, the complainant alleged the board violated section 2.02(c) of the Open Meetings Act, which requires that the agenda state “the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting.” The complainant claimed that the agenda item regarding the consultant was too vague and broad to comply with the OMA.
In a surprising finding in favor of the board, the PAC found that although “Hire consultant - Action Required” did not give details of the proposed action, section 2.02 only required that the agenda set forth the general subject matter of the item. Further, the PAC noted that the intent of section 2.02(c) is to provide notice of all matters for which the public body will take final action. The PAC found that together, the agenda item and the item preceding it sufficiently stated the general subject matter regarding the nature of the consultant’s work and provided advance notice that the board would take final action to determine the compensation and hire a community engagement consultant.
The guidance provided in this advisory opinion is the type that is actually helpful to public bodies in complying with the OMA. It's unfortunate that this type of guidance is usually found only in advisory rather than binding opinions, particularly since the PAC does not make its advisory opinions readily available by posting advisory opinions on its website.
Post Authored by Erin Baker, Ancel Glink