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April 15, 2024

City Council Illegal Meeting?

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On January 4, 2012

Arrogance at its finest!

Mayor Craig Smith, who also happens to be a local attorney at law, might consider reading the Open Meetings Statute to better understand it since its clear after several confirmed violations of that act by his clients (Edgar County ETSB) he still doesn’t get it.

Not only does he not get it, he actually tries to imply that they did nothing wrong.

We love letting the public decide the facts in these simple matters.  You tell us!

Was this a meeting? 

State Statute definition of a Meeting:

(5 ILCS 120/1.02) (from Ch. 102, par. 41.02)
    Sec. 1.02. For the purposes of this Act:
    “Meeting” means any gathering, whether in person or by video or audio conference, telephone call, electronic means (such as, without limitation, electronic mail, electronic chat, and instant messaging), or other means of contemporaneous interactive communication, of a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business or, for a 5‑member public body, a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business.

Now unless Mr. Craig Smith, Attorney at law, and Mayor of Paris missed something in grade school, it’s pretty clear that this was a gathering of a majority of a quorum and they did in fact discuss public business

So can we agree that this was in fact a meeting?

Since it was a meeting as defined by statute, they are required to post the notice of the meeting 48 hours in advance to include the agenda for the meeting.  That did not happen in this case and his attitude of let’s see what the attorney general says is an example of the arrogance of the Mayor.  

A request for review has been filed and rest assured we are confident that the Attorney General will agree with the statute and confirm they violated the open meetings act by not posting the meeting and not posting an agenda to the meeting, just as described. 

 Futher clarification comes from the Illinois Attorney General here.

What is the Open Meetings Act (OMA)?
The Open Meetings Act is a state law that requires that meetings of public bodies be open to the public except in certain specific, limited situations (discussed in more detail below) where the law authorizes the public body to close a meeting. OMA also provides that the public must be given advance notice of the time, place and subject matter of the meetings of public bodies.

What is the difference between the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and OMA?
FOIA applies when a member of the public is seeking access to public records. OMA is intended to ensure that the actions of public bodies are conducted in the open, through public meetings, and that the public is able to observe the deliberations behind those actions.

What are the penalties that a public body may incur if it violates the Open Meetings Act?

—->> Criminal Penalties: Under the law, a State’s Attorney may bring a criminal action for a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
A violation of OMA is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. (for each member of the board participating in the violation).

Civil Penalties: In a civil lawsuit for a violation of OMA, a court may take a number of actions, including (1) ordering a public body to conduct an open meeting, (2) granting an injunction against future violations by the public body, (3) ordering the public body to make available to the public the minutes of a closed meeting, (4) declaring null and void any final action taken at a closed meeting in violation of OMA, or (5) awarding any other relief that the court deems appropriate. The court also may require the public body to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of the person who filed the civil lawsuit alleging the OMA violation.

UPDATE 1-9-2012: The annual notice for the pre-agenda meeting is now posted at City Hall.


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