Princeton, IL. (ECWd) –
The Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has finally, after 13 months, made a determination that the Princeton Park District had violated the Open Meetings Act on May 18, 2015.
The Princeton Park District, like many other local governments, tried silencing a critic by telling him he did not have the right to ask questions of the Board of Commissioners during public comment time at its meetings.
One would think since the Open Meetings Act and the right to speak has been Illinois law for several years, local governments would quit playing games and quit trying to place restrictions on this right. Maybe they would start complying with the law if they could be personally fined for their violations.
During the meeting, Chairman Gene Englehart told a citizen that he could not ask questions of the board during public comment. However, in their response to the Attorney General, they claimed they were simply trying to re-direct him to a “more useful avenue of expression”, or in other words, once they got caught violating his rights, they started making excuses.
Public comment during open public meetings is a right, subject only to reasonable rules designed to accommodate and not restrict a speaker’s statutory right to address their public officials.
Additionally, the Princeton Park District had not established any rules, and even if they made a rule prohibiting questions, such a rule would have violated his statutory right to address the board.