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Monday, March 23, 2015

College Board Violated OMA by Discussing Budget in Closed Session

I was wondering when we might see another opinion from the PAC since it had been January since that office issued its last binding opinion.  On Friday of last week, the PAC issued its third binding opinion of 2015.  Anyone want to guess how the PAC ruled?   

In PAC Op. 15-003, a reporter filed a complaint with the PAC alleging that the Waubonsee Community College board of trustees violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing improper topics in closed session.  According to the complaint, a newspaper reporter was looking through a window into the room where the closed session was being held and saw slides being projected on a screen relating to the financial condition of the college.  The reporter filed the complaint, and the board asserted two OMA exemptions: (1) compensation of employees and (2) lease or purchase of property.

The PAC determined that although the board did discuss issues relating to the compensation of employees, it also discussed general budgetary matters that were not proper topics for closed session in violation of the OMA.  The PAC also determined that while the board did discuss the sale of property, it did not discuss the purchase of property. Consequently, the PAC found the board in violation of the OMA for discussing topics outside of the exemptions cited for going into closed session.  The PAC ordered the board to make available to the public a portion of the closed session minutes, a portion of the verbatim recording, and copies of the slides.

The PAC did not discuss the appropriateness of a reporter looking into a window into a closed session, or the potential for the reporter to gain access to information that was appropriate for closed session.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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