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April 12, 2024

AG claims they lack authority under Open Meetings Act –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 11, 2016


What can the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor do when a public body refuses to comply with requests for information related to a Request for Review?

According the an AG PAC attorney, nothing:

“Unfortunately, our office lacks any authority to force a public body to respond to such inquiries.  Of course, requesters and/or news media are allowed to pressure such public bodies to comply with the statute.”

However, according to the Open Meetings Act, which the Attorney General is bound by, the PAC has all the authority it needs to force an uncooperative public body to become instantly cooperative.

Section 3.5(b) of the OMA:  “. . . If a public body fails to furnish specified records pursuant to this Section, or if otherwise necessary, the Attorney General may issue a subpoena to any person or public body having knowledge of or records pertaining to an alleged violation of this Act. For purposes of conducting a thorough review, the Public Access Counselor has the same right to examine a verbatim recording of a meeting closed to the public or the minutes of a closed meeting as does a court in a civil action brought to enforce this Act.”

And if a public body does not comply with a subpoena? Charge them in criminal court for noncompliance with subpoena and also charge them in criminal court for the violation of Section 3.5 — which is a Class C Misdemeanor according to Section 4 of the Open Meetings Act:

Sec. 4. Any person violating any of the provisions of this Act, except subsection (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 1.05, shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

We find this excuse used by the PAC to allow a public body to simply brush off the AG and any requests for information related to a complaint filed as nothing more than the PAC deciding on its own to not enforce the Open Meetings Act. It appears to be much better for the PAC and the local public body to make sure no determinations are ever made within any reasonable timeline.

The email discussed above is in relation to the Clark County Park District and an alleged OMA violation from close to a year ago.

We still have several OMA complaints dating back almost 2 years and a FOIA complaint dating back almost 3 years.

There can be no justice in access to public records and compliance with open meetings when the office charged with investigating alleged noncompliance cannot even read and act on the authority granted it by the legislature.

Do laws matter?

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  • jannie
    Posted at 11:26h, 11 July

    When I e-mailed a foia question to the AG about whether closed meeting minutes before 1981 would be still closed or if they(Public Bodies) would have even kept minutes for closed meetings… I rec’d a response “contact an attorney”. Duh…. that was basically no help to me.

  • Dave
    Posted at 12:46h, 11 July


  • Warren J. Le Fever
    Posted at 15:38h, 11 July

    And anyone Wonders why there is so much corruption in the State of Illinois in local government throughout the state…
    The behavior described above is disgraceful and disgusting. Do laws matter? Apparently not in this state. In my opinion, the problem is caused by lazy state employees who need fired because they won’t do their work they are paid to do. It’s easier to sit around and lie by claiming they have no authority and apparently there’s no punishment for lying in the Attorney General’s office.

  • Bill Morris
    Posted at 18:08h, 11 July

    Unfortunately the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Matigan seems afraid to enforce the Open Meetings Law. Thanks for pointing out the Law she can follow to force governments to comply with the Public’s right to know. Maybe now the AG will do something.

  • bill brown
    Posted at 06:42h, 12 July

    keyword is “may” as compared to “shall”..

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 07:13h, 12 July

      Agree, which means the AG determined on their own not to force compliance, when what they said in the email was that they “lacked the authority” to force compliance – which is clearly not true.

  • Danni Smith
    Posted at 23:58h, 17 July

    the overly paid and overly pensioned do nothing for the taxpayer. It is the Watchdogs who are doing ALL the work of free from firing, free from discipline and free to do any damn thing they please, public employees. Time for a tax revolt.