Cook Co. (ECWd) -
We don't have to look very far in this state to find self-proclaimed experts holding office who are once again proven wrong.
Maine Township Supervisor has once again proven she has no place in public office, let alone being the Township Supervisor. Morask has a tendency to talk down to newly elected board members who question how things are done. She likes to remind people that she has 16 years of experience, and because of that she is the know-all of Township Government.
When board members questioned whether the 6:30 meetings-before-the-meeting practice was an Open Meetings Act violation she assured them it was not. Even their attorney's feeble attempts at claiming there were no violations of the OMA fell short.
The PAC office issued their opinion regarding our alleged violations of the OMA and in true fashion, we find they ruled as we predicted on all but one alleged violation.
- Public Access Bureau concludes that the Maine Township (Township) Board of Trustees (Board) violated the
requirements of OMA in connection with its August 22, 2017, and September 26, 2017, 6:30 p.m. gatherings and its September 26, 2017, 7:30 p.m. Board meeting.
- It is undisputed that the Board did not hold the 6:30 p.m. gatherings on August 22, 2017, and September 26, 2017, in accordance with the requirements of OMA.
- Based on the information provided by the Board, a quorum was present for at least part of both the August 22, 2017, and September 26, 2017, 6:30 p.m. gatherings. Further, the topic of the gatherings was unquestionably public business, as the review of bills pertains to the expenditure of the Township's funds. The Board denies that any deliberation occurred at the 6:30 p.m. gatherings, but it states that the trustees sought and received information concerning the bills. It appears that all of the trustees present at the gatherings could hear the questions raised and the answers provided. Contrary to the Board's assertion that its members did not engage in deliberation because there was no discussion, the Attorney General has noted that
"[d]eliberation ***connotes not only collective discussion, but the collective acquisition and exchange of facts preliminary to the ultimate decision." Ill.
- Because the purpose of the 6:30 p.m. gatherings was to obtain information in anticipation of voting on the payment of the bills at the ensuing regular Board meetings, the information obtained during those gatherings was preliminary to the ultimate decision of whether to approve the bills. During its 6:30 p.m. gatherings, the Board engaged in the collective inquiry phase of deliberation before voting at 7:30 p.m. on the approval of the Township bills. Therefore, the 6:30 p.m. gatherings constituted meetings subject to the requirements of OMA.
- Accordingly, based on the available information, this office concludes that, in connection with its August 22, 2017, and September 26, 2017, gatherings, the Board violated (1) section 2.02 of OMA by holding meetings without proper posting of notice and agendas; (2) section 2.0 I of OMA by failing to hold the meetings at specified times and places that were open to the public; (3) section 2.06(a) of OMA by failing to keep minutes of the meetings; and (4) section 2.06(g) of OMA by failing to provide an opportunity for public comment.
- There is no dispute that the doors to the Township Hall were locked for part of the time when the September 26, 2017, Board meeting was taking place.
- Here, there were no measures in place to admit members of the public to the Town Hall. As one citizen was temporarily denied access to the September 26, 2017, Board meeting, this office finds that the Board violated the requirement in section 2.01 of OMA that public meetings be "open to the public."
We are curious how Laura Morask, the Supervisor with over 16 years in Township Government, is capable of not understanding and applying OMA obligations? She had insisted the items above were not violations, as did their attorney, yet the AG PAC office says otherwise.
Oh well, this is the same Supervisor and attorney who have no problem with the clerk voting on matters outside his authority.
We urge the board to not pay for the less than accurate legal advice on this request for review, and ask Supervisor Moraks to resign so that real leadership can be put in place to better protect the taxpayers of Maine Township.
The PAC did rule that the location of the meeting was not required to be on the agenda and notice since it was located on the web site above the annual schedule of meetings.
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