DUPAGE CO. (ECWd) -
A little known provision of the Open Meetings Act was called into the open by a citizen who was attending the DuPage County Board meeting. Section 7.3(b) of the Open Meetings Act states that for those public bodies participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement System, they must publish any total compensation packages six days in advance of any approval of compensation above $150,000. Apparently this did not happen in DuPage County.
A citizen's public statement at the May 27, 2014 DuPage County Board Finance Committee meeting, where they vote to move forward items on the agenda, was presented one hour before the Board meeting. This eventually led to the tabling of a vote on pay increases for DuPage County staff. Read the Daily Herald article about what happened (HERE).
The public statement:
Good evening. My name is Jean Kaczmarek.
The agenda states that you will be voting on future raises for elected officials. Tonight I have concerns that this vote is a potential Open Meetings Act violation.
The Open Meetings Act, ILCS 120/7.3 b) reads: At least 6 days before an employer participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund approves an employee's total compensation package that is equal to or in excess of $150,000 per year, the employer must post on its website the total compensation package for that employee.
A week ago, I searched the County's website thoroughly for where increases for compensation packages up for vote might be posted, including the Employee Compensation home page. After all, the salaries for positions of elected officials are included within the same database as employees. I could not locate anything.
I was beginning to think you wouldn't be voting at all on raises.
But then, I found the pending raises in the agenda packet posted Friday night before a three-day holiday weekend, buried on pages 520 to 526.
Because I knew that this room would be filled with legal gray matter and that I'm just an ordinary citizen, I sought the opinion today of the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access office. I spoke with Asst. Attorney General Tim O'Brien.
I asked about the definitions of employer, employee and elected officials. Mr. O'Brien said that it would require research.
He said that the County may be operating within the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. He said that it struck him that less than sufficient notice was provided.
Mr. O'Brien told me that I raised valid questions and that there was cause for further inquiry, and that if I filed for a request for review of an alleged OMA violation, his office would take it seriously.
Placing pending raises for elected officials in a thick agenda packet posted the Friday night before a three-day holiday, then voting the following day, does not meet my criteria for transparency.
It's not enough to repeat again and again you're transparent. You actually have to practice it.
Whether you vote yes or no to raises isn't my point. I'm concerned that you shouldn't be voting on these resolutions at all, especially when some of you will personally benefit should they pass.
I have made copies of the statute and the County's employee compensation webpage where the pending salaries should have been posted at least six days ago and weren't.
After the finance meeting was the scheduled DuPage County Board meeting.
DuPage County is the second most-populated county in Illinois. The room was filled with attorneys, by the way, as always. It was a pretty big deal.
First, the Board meeting was 15 minutes late. Jean Kaczmarek had given public comment on the potential OMA violation an hour earlier at the Finance Committee meeting. Later learning the delay was caused by what was said; they were looking into it. Then, just before they got to the votes on raises, the Deputy Chairman called for a 10-minute recess. Unusual. The ten minutes turned into at least 20. When they returned, the Deputy Chairman called for the votes on raises to be tabled because of the issue brought up earlier.
DuPage County, in this instance, showed genuine concern that they follow the law by tabling a vote where the legality of said vote was questioned by a citizen.