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Monday, September 28, 2020

PAC Finds City Council Violated OMA in Call Updates on Pandemic Actions

As has been widely reported by local news, the Public Access Counselor (PAC) office of the Attorney General recently issued an opinion finding the City of Chicago City Council in violation of the Open Meetings Act for allegedly conducting phone meetings with a majority of a quorum of the Council outside of a noticed meeting. 2020 PAC 62918

ProPublica Illinois filed a request for review with the PAC claiming that the City Council had held a number of meetings by phone without complying with the OMA. The City responded that the calls were informal briefings about pandemic-related issues and did not constitute the discussion of public business to trigger the OMA. The City argued that the calls consisted of updates on public safety matters that were informational in nature, and did not include any discussion or deliberation of public business.

The PAC disagreed with the City, finding that all but one of the phone calls constituted a meeting that required compliance with the OMA (one of the challenged meetings did not involve a majority of a quorum of the Council so did not trigger a meeting). The PAC stated that public business under the OMA is not restricted to only those topics that public bodies take action on during a gathering but also includes information exchanged relating to matters that public bodies could potentially act on in the future, regardless of whether action is ultimately taken. As a result, the PAC found the City Council in violation of the OMA and ordered the City to make available for public inspection copies of summaries of these calls.


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