WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) -
The Illinois Open Meetings Act - a simple, easy to read document which codifies the public's right to speak at meetings, and to address their public officials during the public comment portion of open public meetings.
(5 ILCS 120/2.06)
(from Ch. 102, par. 42.06)
Minutes; right to speak.
(g) Any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.
I see nothing in the above paragraph stating the public can only address "the board chairman" or "the board as a whole" or "the village president" or any other restrictions on who the public has the statutory right to address during the public comment portion of a public meeting.
Indeed, it says "address public officials" meaning each and every public official in the meeting. Any purported rules infringing on that right are invalid.
The law firm of Klein Thorpe Jenkins has a history of giving what we believe to be bad advice to the public officials they represent - a recent example is the horrible representation given to the Orland Park Public Library while that board was defending their decision to not restrict access to child pornography in a public library. This was a library that spent upwards of $480,000 to try and keep public records from the public and to thwart the Open Meetings Act. The Village of Orland Park Police Department ended up paying $12,000 for FOIA violations, and the library paid $55,000 for FOIA violations.
"Under the rules established and recorded by the public body"
Yes, the statute says a person can speak "under the rules" established and recorded by the public body. What that means, is "time, place, and manner" rules, ie: a public body may develop rules that enhance the public's ability to speak without further restricting the right of the public to speak and address their public officials during the meeting. What this generally means is that a public body may make rules stating the time limit per speaker, overall time limit for public comment, or the portion(s) of the meeting where comment is placed.
The Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor has weighed in on this several times, and has always been consistent - enhance, not further restrict.
"James V. Ferolo - Inks letter" (LOL)
Our readers will remember a couple weeks ago when Wheeling Village President trampled all over a speaker's constitutional and statutory right to address her public officials.
Wheeling's next step was to issue her a letter explaining their rules for her to comment - which will surely end up in the courts with Wheeling losing miserably.
Ferolo tells her that according to Village Code "members of the public may address the board" - what he magically forgets is that the Open Meetings Act trumps any Village Code, and that state law says the public has a right to speak and the shall be permitted that right to speak. Wheeling needs to change their code to read "members of the public have a right to address public officials..." - Strike 1.
Village Code is also subordinate to the OMA when they try and limit public comment to "the board" - which is not in keeping with state law. Strike 2.
Ferolo then tries to convince her that the Village's adoption of Robert's Rules of Order somehow allows the village to violate her constitutional and statutory rights with Rule Number 7:
"Speakers must address their remarks to the presiding officer, be courteous in their language and deportment, and avoid all personalities, never alluding to the officers or other members by name, where possible to avoid it, nor to the motives of members"
“Debate must address issues not personalities and that no one is permitted to make personal attacks or question the motives of other speakers.”
I don't know who Mr. Ferolo thinks he is, or who this public body thinks they are, but their rules are invalid and unenforceable. Never mentioning an officer by name...what a joke Wheeling is. Do they think they are special? This letter will become the laughing stock of law offices across the state.
Mr. James V. Ferolo - we suggest you govern yourself accordingly and give accurate advice to the Wheeling public officials you are being paid to advise.
I only hope you didn't bill the village for this piece of trash letter. If you did get paid for this, please voluntarily return the payment. Please, attorney Ferolo, please take your law license off the wall and gently feed it into the shredder.
Read this joke below: