EDGAR CO. (ECWd) –
With Sandra Neal, current trustee of the CERWD, making a “Historical Moment” in Edgar County History, and the convening of the first-ever known Edgar County Electoral Board to hear petition objections of the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District trustee candidates, it could be understandable that a few mistakes would be made. What is not excusable, is that mistakes were made in regards to the Open Meetings Act, of which at least two of the three board members have had enough experience with public meetings to guide them in the right direction – considering they have (or should have) completed the OMA training required by the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
The alleged violation(s) in this case was the RIGHT, given by the Open Meetings Act (OMA), of the public to speak during an open public meeting.
In particular, the OMA, 5 ILCS 120/2.06(g) states:
<span style="font-family: Courier New; font-size: small;">Sec. 2.06. </span>
<span style="font-family: Courier New; font-size: small;">Minutes; right to speak.</span>
<span style="font-family: Courier New; font-size: small;">(g) <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Any person shall be permitted</span> an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.</span>
January 11, 2013
– The first public meeting of the Edgar County Electoral Board was properly noticed, with an agenda, at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. The problem was that “public session” was not on the agenda, which does not neccessarily prevent the board from holding public session as no action would be taken as a result of the public session. Nevertheless, when the board was asked to allow public comment, their reply was that public comment would not be allowed at this meeting. This is referenced in Count 1 of the complaint.
January 23, 2013
– The second public meeting of the Edgar County Electoral Board was properly noticed, with an agenda, at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. The problem was that “public session” was not on the agenda, which does not neccessarily prevent the board from holding public session as no action would be taken as a result of the public session. Nevertheless, when the board was asked to allow public comment, their attorney’s reply was that it (public comment) is not going to happen today. This is referenced in Count 2 of the complaint.
January 25, 2013
– Now having what they believed to be probable cause to believe there would be no public comments allowed during the third meeting, Mr. Kraft and Mr. Allen filed a complaint (explained below) in the Fifth Judicial Circuit. Knowledge of this filing immediately reached the board members who ended up allowing public comment during this meeting even though it was not on the agenda,which is acceptable since no action would result from the public session. This is referenced in Count 3 of the original complaint – soon to be amended to remove count three.
The Complaint : 2013-MR-8
The complaint, a Complaint For Declatory Judgment, Relief By Mandamus, And Injunctive Relief was filed with the Edgar County Circuit Clerk’s office the morning of January 25, 2013. This complaint alleged 2 counts of the OMA and alleged probable cause to believe a third violation was forthcoming.
– seeking Relief by Mandamus, requiring that all future meetings of the board allow any person to address the board during the public meeting
– seeking injunction against further violations of the OMA
– seeking award of attorney fees and costs reasonably incurred
– seeking other and further relief as outlined in 5 ILCS 120/4
No Date Yet
Judge Garst and Judge Sullivan both recused themselves from hearing the case on February 4th, 2013 and so advised Chief Judge Everhart in a request for a re-assignment of the case.
On the 8th of February Chief judge Everhart assigned the case to Coles County Circuit Judge Mitchell Shick.
There is no date set for the hearing that we are aware of, but is should be forthcoming soon and we will provide an update when this action is complete.