DANVILLE, IL. (ECWd) –
On November 12, 2013, I attended a regularly scheduled Vermilion County Board meeting. During public session, the chairman invited all interested parties who wanted to talk about things other than wind farm issues to speak. I informed him that I had things to speak about, and he decided to make me wait until all Vermilion County residents had an opportunity to speak, and then if there was any time left, I would be allowed to address the board. I was the first to line up for public session, and the first to inform the board I had a topic to discuss.
There was time for me to address the board, and I did have time to speak, but the fact is the chairman disregarded their own established and recorded rules for public comment.
The Open Meeting Act does not distinguish between residents and nonresidents of a particular public body when addressing the right to speak. The only limitation of the right address the public body is under the rules established and recorded by the public body. This board has rules established and recorded, and their rules make no mention of residency status as a condition of speech. Chairman Weinard made an arbitrary decision during the meeting in violation of their own policy and of the Open Meetigns Act. Additionally, any rules established must be reasonable, any attempt at conditioning speech based on residency is unreasonable (in my opinion).
The Request for Review as I sent it to the Attorney General’s PAC:
I hereby submit this request for the Public Access Counselor to review this alleged Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation.
Date of alleged violation of OMA by public body: November 12, 2013
Name of Public Body:Vermilion County Board
Summary of facts:
A Vermilion County Board meeting was conducted at approximately 6:00 P.M. on November 12, 2013.
During the public comment session on the agenda, the chairman asked if anyone from the audience had comments not pertaining to the wind farm issue.
I replied that I had comments not pertaining to the wind farm issue and starting moving towards the podium.
The chairman then made an immediate arbitrary decision, putting unestablished and unrecorded rules in place for public comments, stating that he would allow those residents of Vermilion County to speak first and if there was any time left I would be allowed to address to board. Common established practice for this public body is that people line up along the wall in the order they wish to speak, they then move to the podium one at a time, in the order they are lined along the wall. I was the first person in line.
He was well aware of the subject of my comments and changed the rules in an attempt at intimidating me into not speaking.
I view this as an attempt at controlling the subject matter of public comments.
The Open Meetings Act specifically states, in [5 ILCS 120/2.06(g)] Minutes; Right to speak; that any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.
The chairman made an arbitrary decision to not follow the rules established and recorded by the Vermilion County Board.
I am fully aware of the fact that public bodies may establish reasonable rules for public comment. Such rules include length of time to speak, etc. Even if the rule of county residents speaking first were established and recorded, that rule should be considered unreasonable and unduly restrictive on those that attend a meeting, especially considering that the OMA does not distinguish between resident and nonresidents of a public body’s geographical coverage area.
The Illinois Attorney General has determined that further inquiry is warranted and is requesting a response from Vermilion County Chairman, along with a copy of their established and recorded rules.
The file number is 2013 PAC 26891 – Updates will follow as we gain more information.
Public session starts at about 30:48 (where he changes the rules) in the video (34:20 is where I get to speak):