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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Library District's Closed Session Minutes Violate OMA

The PAC issued another binding opinion finding a public body in violation of the OMA, this time for failing to include a detailed finding in its closed session meeting minutes of the reason for going into closed session. 
In PAC Op. 13-008, the PAC considered a complaint alleging that a Library District improperly closed a meeting for imminent or probable litigation.  Specifically, the District had gone into closed session to discuss a payment dispute between the Library District and the Illinois Library Employee Benefit Plan (ILEBP), citing the "probable or imminent" litigation exception of the OMA.  The complainant alleged, however, that there was no threat of litigation sufficient to justify going into closed session.  In defending its actions to the PAC, the District submitted three letters that the ILEBP had sent to the District stating that it would file a lawsuit or pursue legal action unless the District reimbursed the ILEBP for certain claims payments. 
The PAC first determined that the District's determination that litigation was probable or imminent was reasonable and a sufficient basis to go into closed session. The three letters from ILEBP threatening litigation against the District was sufficient to trigger the "probable or imminent" litigation exemption.  Further, the recordings of the session disclosed that the discussions related to "strategies, postures, theories, and consequences of the threatened litigation," which were proper discussions in closed session. 
The PAC did, however, find the District in violation of the OMA because it failed to record and enter an adequate explanation of the basis for finding that a lawsuit was probable or imminent into the closed session minutes.  Although the complainant apparently had not raised the issue of the closed session minutes in her complaint, the PAC nevertheless determined that the District's minutes were insufficient under the OMA.  The District was directed to amend its closed session meeting minutes accordingly. 
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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