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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PAC Issues 5th Opinion Finding OMA Violation

The PAC recently issued its 5th binding opinion for 2015 finding a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Act in PAC Op. 15-005.  I was starting to wonder if the PAC was only going to issue advisory opinions this year. As I've discussed in the past, the dearth of binding opinions is a problem for public bodies because the PAC only posts its binding opinions on its website, so it's difficult for public bodies and those who advise them to get a sense of how the PAC interprets and applies the OMA and FOIA when nearly all of its opinions are advisory and not readily available for public view.  

In any event (stepping off my soapbox), in PAC Op. 15-005, the PAC determined that the Village of Blue Mound violated OMA when it discussed a police services contract in closed session and voted to approve that contract in open session without the item being listed on the agenda. 

Although the Village defended its actions by stating that it went into closed session for the purpose of discussing "personnel" since the contract would affect the employment of the Chief of Police, the PAC rejected the Village's argument.  The PAC noted that the "personnel" exemption applies only to discussions about specific employees. Although the Board did discuss the termination of the Police Chief as a result of the contract, the bulk of the Board's discussions centered on the terms of the contract, not a specific employee.

The PAC also noted that the Board voted to approve the police services contract after coming back into open session even though the agenda did not include any item relating to the police services contract. As a result, the PAC stated that the Board violated section 2.02(c) of the OMA which requires the agenda to "set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting."  Putting aside the fact that the police services contract is neither an ordinance nor a resolution so 2.02(c) should not apply, the Illinois appellate court in Rice v. Adams did make it clear that agendas must provide some specificity on meeting agendas so the public is on notice of what will be voted on at a meeting. The Board's agenda did not do that where it included nothing about the contract. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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