January 31, 2014 · 0 Comments
DANVILLE, IL. (ECWd) –
On January 28, 2014, the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau (“PAC”) concluded that the Vermilion County Board and Chairman Gary Weinard violated Section 2.06(g) of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) by imposing an arbitrary and extemporaneous rule during their November 12, 2013 County Board Meeting. During this meeting Chairman Weinard changed established rules by allowing Vermilion County residents precedence over non-residents when addressing the board during public comment session.
Cannot Change Rules During Meeting
The PAC stated that since the board had not adopted this rule in advance of the meeting, the board violated the act by making the instant changes to their established rules.
Rules Must Be Reasonable
This is not to say that any rules that may have been established prior to the meeting would have been reasonable and in compliance with the OMA. The PAC further explained this by stating that this type of rule would raise significant legal issues and would not be reasonable. “There is no justification for basing the opportunity to address the Board solely on the speaker’s residency“.
I addressed the issue twice during the meeting, informing Mr. Weinard his decision violated the OMA, but he kept insisting it did not. Mr. Donahue, Vermilion County Assistant State’s Attorney, while writing artfully crafted letters supporting the Board’s position, ultimately failed in his quest to justify circumvention of the law. The right thing to do would have been to simply admit the violation and move on, but that must have been too hard a task.
Rules Changes On The Horizon?
When reading the back-and-forth letters of Mr. Donahue, please note that the Vermilion County Board is contemplating changing their rules for public comment. While there is nothing wrong with change, they must ensure any changes made comply with the law and are not considered unreasonable. Personally, I see nothing wrong with the rules currently established.
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