WILLIAMSFIELD, IL. (ECWd) -
Knox County Sheriff's Department was called to the school board meeting last night, January 8, 2018. They were called by both the Williamsfield CUSD #210 Board President Chuck Ingle, and by me, after a short discussion on Ingle's violation of State law - the Open Meetings Act.
Board President Ingle called and reported that he had a couple people interrupting the school board meeting. I called and reported a crime in progress, that the school board president was committing a crime (Class C Misdemeanor) during the meeting by refusing to follow the board's adopted and established rules for public comment. For the record, we were not interrupting a meeting, but rather, attempting to stop the commission of a crime in progress.
The Issues (supporting references in this pdf):
- Board President thinks he can violate Board Policy and State law by restricting comment to 2 minutes per person without that rule being established and recorded by the public body
- Board President thinks he can violate the First Amendment and State Law by prohibiting mentioning of names during public comment
Meeting Agenda, included a note from the president purporting to recite Board Policy 2:230:
Per Board Policy 2:230
- Individuals appearing before the board to participate in public comment must identify themselves by name when called upon and begin to deliver his or her message to the board. The customary time allotted per speaker is 2 minutes.
So we reviewed "Board Policy 2:230" and it stated:
- Identify oneself and be brief. Ordinarily, comments shall be limited to 5 minutes. In unusual circumstances, and when an individual has made a request in advance to speak for a longer period of time, the individual may be allowed to speak for more than 5 minutes.
I think anyone can see, that his note in the meeting agenda IS NOT "Per Board Policy" but rather something he made up to limit public comment without proper authority.
The Open Meetings Act, Section 2.06 is what grants the "right to speak" to any person, subject only to the rules established and recorded by the public body. In this instance, the Board Policy published on its website include the rules established and recorded by this public body. Also, keep in mind any rules established must be reasonable and must enhance the ability for a person to address public officials, not restrict their ability as is the case with this school board.
Additionally, the Open Meetings Act's right to speak specifically states we have the right to address "public officials" - not merely "the Board" or only the president. If someone wants to ask a particular board member a question or call them out by name on something they don't agree with, it is the person's right to do so.
As far as the time limits, if the public body wants to further restrict the time limits (from 5 minutes to 3 minutes) on public comment, the board must adopt a new policy - which cannot be implemented at the meeting the new policy was adopted, but at later meetings.
During this meeting, the president once again disrupted a person during her public comment time. His actions violated Board Policy 2:30 and the Open Meetings Act. As such, we interjected and insisted she be able to finish her 5 minutes according to their established and recorded rules, and that everyone else be treated to the same 5 minutes. We also insisted she had the right to mention names.
While waiting on law enforcement to arrive, other board members agreed that their own board policy stated 5 minutes per person, and convinced the president to continue with public comment, and allow the 5 minutes according to established policy.
We talked to the Deputies for approximately a half an hour, explaining what we believed happened, and how what the board president did was a violation of law and a criminal act.
Watch the video below: